Friday, April 27, 2007

Free Coffee Update: May the Force Be With Us

After a little tangle of events yesterday around our drive to bring back free coffee, the advice of Yoda somehow came through it all, "There is no try, there is only do", and so we went for it. Although I feel a bit sheepish about quoting a film character, and a Star Wars one to boot, somehow it seemed to fit - we are hoping that the wave of support for this initiative will help us succeed in bringing this interesting informal learning opportunity back to our institution, in spite of some challenges.

We relaunched the Free Coffee morning in partnership with our HR department, with a new sponsorship component. Neither of our departments really has enough budget to support the activity completely, even sharing the cost. However, we decided to try and invite other departments to use the Free Coffee Morning for their own purposes - to inform people about a new initiative, to celebrate an International Day, to honour a retiring colleague, to take a survey of staff on a key issue, etc.

I wrote the sponsorship message with my fingers crossed, hoping that interest and support would be with us in bringing back this opportunity for people to leave their offices for an hour a week to have a coffee and talk to each other. Our partner was a little nervous too.

Well, a day later, the sponsorships are coming in, and it is exciting to see that people are getting really creative with their adopted days. For example, we have an anonymous sponsor who is giving the coffee to staff to help celebrate his/her birthday (we promised anonymity to the end); one department is going to celebrate the launch of a big publication that has a colour in the title (red) so everyone who wears red that day, gets the free coffee; another programme has just landed a 16million dollar grant for a major international project and will sponsor a morning to let people know more about it.

So far this is working, and if we are lucky, we will just need to cover a few odd weeks here and there. We can do that. It was a bit of a gamble, but we felt that staff were supportive. Let us hope that this continues and that the force of popular demand is with us... (Lizzie, don't cringe!)