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A 21st Century Enlightenment Coffeehouse

What is an enlightenment coffeehouse and how did they transform our world? Dr Matthew Green visits the RSA to take us back to  the 17th and 18th centuries when the coffeehouses were very different from todays crop of branded cafes.

The RSA itself was established in an enlightenment coffeehouse in 1754 by a group of people who came together with a shared vision for a better tomorrow. We believe the creation of a 21st century enlightenment coffeehouse will strengthen, empower and mobilise new networks of people to work together to tackle today's most pressing social challenges.

If you share our vision then please consider supporting the coffeehouse.   


Why is the RSA building a new coffeehouse?

The impetus for a new coffeehouse came from our regular Fellowship surveys which highlighted the fact that thousands of Fellows are disappointed with the space to collaborate at RSA House.

How much will it cost?

We expect the total cost of the project to be £3.7mil. If we raise £400,000 from fundraising, which is our aim, we will make a positive return on this outlay within 10 years. You can find out more about the business case and where the money is coming from here.

What has been the process?

A survey sent to Fellows who expressed their dissatisfaction with the House highlighted that the number one request was a much larger space to collaborate; one where some thought has been given to a design which encourages spontaneous interactions between users. The Trustee Board discussed these results and from this it was agreed that a major project should be undertaken.
The idea of a 21st century enlightenment coffeehouse, one which makes a valuable contribution to the RSA’s mission, was really cemented as the way forward in a series of focus groups with Fellows. Building work will commence in January 2018 with the coffeehouse launching in July.


What are the plans?  

The coffeehouse will transform two floors of RSA House. A new mini-amphitheatre will also allow anyone with an idea worth sharing to organise an event for free and broadcast live to the RSA’s global network.
Rest-assured the spaces we are changing are either staff offices, storage facilities, or rooms with contemporary interiors, so no changes will be made to period features or interiors.  
More information about the plans, including the architects’ drawings, are available here.

How will the coffeehouse contribute to the RSA’s mission?

Fellows considered this question and submitted over 130 proposals to an ideas platform especially setup to manage the process. An internal review shortlisted 20 ideas and Fellows voted for the ideas which will be taken forward at launch. You can view the 5 winning ideas here. The remaining proposals form a bank of good ideas to test out once the coffeehouse has launched.  

Who are we working with and how were they selected?

Details of the organisations involved in the project and our procurement policy are here.
If you have any questions about any aspect of the project, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Any donation you can make, no matter how big or small, will be greatly appreciated.