Over SubRosa's history since 2008 we've done some things well and some things poorly, but we are always learning. Here is an incomplete list of some of the things we've learned. Perhaps this will help other fledgling infoshop projects.
- From the beginning we wanted SubRosa to be a welcoming space to all sorts of people, not just anarchists and punks, but people who you might not normally expect to find in an anarchist infoshop. Older people, folks of color, people who look and dress more conventional, poor people and people with means, families and children, artists, students, and anyone who might be curious about anarchism.
- With that in mind, we considered it important that staff be explicitly welcoming to people who come into the space (especially new people), and part of our training reflects that.
- Because we want it to be space that lots of different people can use in a lot of different ways, we are especially sensitive to anyone's behavior that makes the space uncomfortable for others. We try to make sure staff are comfortable expressing this when necessary.
- To help make the space comfortable for all kinds of people, staff are also sensitive and willing to talk to people who are using sexist, racist, homo/transphobic, or other dominating language.
- It was our hope that the welcome sign at the entrance to the courtyard will both spell out our intentions and help people feel welcome in the space.
- We were aware that people who'd never been in an infoshop before might not know how to interact with the space. Is an anarchist community space only for anarchists? What about people who are just curious, or just wanted to read a book, or hang out and see what it was all about? We deliberately worked to make the space comfortable with a cozy coffee shop/bookstore feel.
- We gave a lot of thought to the sort of space we wanted long before we found the SubRosa space. We wanted a space that had room for books and zines, cafe tables, a small stage for performance, and space for a courtyard garden.
- One of the unavailable spaces we coveted was in the Hub for Sustainable Living. We already felt a strong affinity for several of the projects there, most notably the Bike Church, a do-it-yourself bike repair shop and tool collective. Later a space became available and we were fortunate to have our offer to rent the space considered and accepted.
- Adjacent to the space was a bleak parking lot that we converted into a beautiful garden courtyard with two redwood decks (made of recycled and scavenged wood). It is a shared space with the other projects that we manage and maintain.
- All of the fixtures for the space (bookshelves, counters, chairs, tables) we scavenged or built from scavenged materials.
- Our goal for the space was to make it a cozy, welcoming cafe environment so many kinds of people would feel welcome.
- We have a counter where staffers generally sit. It gives visitors who are unfamiliar with the space a familiar place to ask questions, buy coffee and tea, check out books, or buy literature.
- We have a familiar cafe-style board above the counter that spells out to new visitors what we offer -- coffee, tea, hot cocoa -- as well as other things that happen in the space
- Many of the infoshops we visited when we were doing research for the space were open only a few hours a week, and these hours mostly in the evening for events.
- We wanted the space to be open at times that would make it available for a wide variety of people. We strive to keep the space open 8am to 8pm on weekdays and 10am to 8pm on weekends.
- Since we are an all-volunteer space, of course, our hours can (and do) vary.
- We try to keep our current hours posted on a board outside the gate of the courtyard.
- An important part of staffing is committing to a one-a-week shift. When a staffer can't make a shift, it is their responsibility to find a sub and let the rest of the staff know (usually through the email list).
- Generally, each day has two 6 hour shifts, morning and afternoon/evening. At least one day has three 4 hour shifts instead. And some staffers have funny shifts to work around their schedules.
- At times, SubRosa has felt more like a punk clubhouse or a drop-in center rather than a radical community space. As a collective we agreed that there was nothing wrong with that, but not exactly why we were putting energy into the space.
- Over a series of staff meetings we talked more about our intentions, and brainstorming ways to realize those intentions.
- One of the things that came out of these meeting was a desire to make our intentions clear to visitors with a sign welcoming people in the courtyard:
Welcome to SubRosa!
This is an anarchist community space run by a collective of committed volunteers. We put energy into SubRosa to create a vibrant community space available for events, classes, and meetings, collaborations and organizing, art and creativity, as well as reading and studying.
We are working to create a world guided by mutual support, without coercive control.
We strive to create a space free from sexism, homophobia, racism, and other forms of hierarchy. To further this goal, please be respectful of others in your language and behavior.
Help us keep SubRosa safe by smoking and drinking elsewhere.
Please ask staff before photographing or recording.
If you have comments or questions or wish to lend a hand, please see a staff person.
- Knowing how challenging it is to do open organizing with new projects, and how difficult it is to find people who are committed, SubRosa started with a small core group of people who bottomlined all the tasks that needed doing to put the infoshop together
- As soon as a committed staff group was established after opening, the core group transitioned their bottomline tasks to other staff members and the core group slowly dissolved
- Initially a few core members loaned money for construction, book purchases, fixtures, etc. These loans were paid back after two years.
- Core members were prepared to make monthly loans to support the space until it was more self-sufficient. It turned out this was unnecessary as the space was self- sufficient within the first month.
- Subrosa is run by a committed collective of staffers.
- Staff meetings are held bi-weekly and all staffers and staffers-in-training are expected to attend.
- All major decisions are made by a formal consensus process.
- Ongoing responsibilities (finance, books, consignment, events, etc) are handled by people who commit to bottomline these important tasks. That doesn't mean that they do everything, just that they take responsibility (organizing folks, communicating, etc) for getting everything done.
- New staffers are encouraged to take on bottomlining tasks.
- Bottomliners report back at each staff meeting on their area of responsibility during a Bottomliner Check-In
- We take detailed notes at each staff meeting and send them out to the staff email list
- One or more people bottomline the new staffer process, check emails, shepherd new staffers through the process, check on progress, etc
- Potential new staffers are asked to answer a few questions as an introduction to staff
- Before a potential staffer becomes a staffer-in-training, they meet the collective and are agreed on via consensus
- Staffers-in-training and trainers regularly report back on their training progress at each staff meeting during a New Staffer Check-In
- After a month of more of training, a staffer-in-training becomes a full staffer/collective member when the new staffer and the rest of the staff feel they are ready agreed via consensus.
- While SubRosa would like to operate as much as possible outside of the monetary economy, we still need to pay rent, bills, pay for improvements, and so on. Therefore staff understands that bringing in money from various sources directly supports the space.
- From the beginning, part of our goal to be "comfortably solvent" from the beginning (as opposed to desperate scrabbling and panic)
- SubRosa receives money from individual donors as part of seasonal fundraising campaigns.
- The space sells coffee, tea, books, zines, and music, and a few consignment items
- SubRosa hosts a weekly open mic ($3 to 7 sliding scale donation, no one turned away for lack of funds) that brings in substantial support for the space
- SubRosa hosts regular music, performance, and speaking events. Unless the event is a benefit, we ask the event organizer for 20% of the door.
- The space hosts a monthly art show, and while we don't sell a lot of art, the artist agrees to give us 20% of all sales.
- SubRosa hosts occasional benefits to support the space -- usually music shows.
- Support from these multiple diverse sources makes SubRosa's financial situation more stable -- if one income support is down, it may be made up by something else that is up. And we are wholly dependent on any one source of support
- SubRosa is fiscally sponsored by a 501(c)(3) non-profit that we started as an umbrella group for many radical projects in town.
Other topics, we want to cover here later:
- Continuity of Knowledge
- Shows & Music
- Work Days
- Staff Social Events
- Challenging Visitors
Thanks for posting this. We're finding this very helpful as we're starting our new rad space in Minneapolis - http://marscollective.org . I'll eagerly anticipate reading about the other topics you're planning to write-up.ReplyDelete
"At times, SubRosa has felt more like a punk clubhouse or a drop-in center rather than a radical community space."ReplyDelete
It feels like a hipster social club that serves coffee to a disinterested street punk/hippie crowd.
Its not a serious activist space.
Most of the material you sell at this shop can be downloaded for free from the Anarchist Library.
So if you are not going to devote yourself to real projects, what purpose do you serve? The reading material isnt anything you cant already download for free.