Ari Wienzweig of Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, MI, in his book on business management and planning, talks about the need to establish a firm vision and publicly stated mission. He mentions that sharing, besides opening up about your goals, dreams, and ambitions, also forces you to talk stock, defend your positions, or rethink your plans in a way you wouldn't if you keep your materials close to your chest. Sharing it creates accountability. It also, indirectly, forces me to think concretely and spell out the angles of the strategic plan and objectives (which, note, are NOT what a mission statement details) as I re-write the business plan.
A month ago we gave a general vision of what we want, a year on, Diaspora Kitchen to be as a business in a fully fledged way. Today I'm putting out what took a weekend to piece together, based on the previous business models and thoughts I had written down within a number of notebooks and sketches, finessed into something closer to a series of key points -- the who's and what's of the mission -- and finally locked into a credo that we think encapsulates our values, and gives an indication as to who we are and how we operate as a business and, in the future, as a community.
A mission statement follows 4 key components:
* What You Do
* Why You Do It
* Who You Do It For
* Who Are You That Do It
[leaves space for all the snickering over the phrasing of the above ;-)]
Now that we've defined the categories, we spell it out.
Diaspora Kitchen is a coffee shop and community kitchen, dedicated to using the products of local and regional agriculture, as well as traditional kitchen literacy, to make delicious food for our community, and inspire, encourage, and empower them to do the same. We do this through providing a space for convivial interaction, as well as workspace for sharing kitchen skills and knowledge both formally (through classes and workshops) and informally (through our means of hospitality -- as a coffee shop, a bakery, a preservation kitchen, and a larder).
We take this particular tack because, as indicated in our vision, institutional aggregation is not enough to change food systems. While it is important to get preferential buying for local products into schools, hospitals, and other large-scale buyers, unless it is paired with a strong marketing component (as in institutional buying), or an educational component (as with schools or public health programs) there is still the treatment of food and agricultural products as a commodity, with no context for why it is important, the growing practices behind it, or in certain cases, an actual ability to create a viable financial return for the farms in question. Questions of nuance are often dropped, or considered unimportant, in these environments. Diaspora Kitchen reasons that when we promote good agricultural biodiversity, good growing practices, and develop mechanisms for people to purchase those products and use them in their own home, we do more to promote local agriculture by creating experiences, lessons, and windows for inquiry that go missed in other spaces. Programs like Edible Schoolyard work because students see a variety of products, taste a variety, and cook differently with a variety of a single product (think about different varieties of kale and their utility). This increases the KITCHEN LITERACY of a single class, and has been shown, carries a significant post-school effect on students decisions on diet and comfort in the kitchen. We want to tap into that and provide a number of opportunities to encourage, empower, and promote our guests and community to obtain those benefits. We want to build and utilize aggregation from the community/user-end.
In short, we do this to build CAPACITY for small and medium-sized farmers, hobby orchards, and food crafters, allowing them to DIVERSIFY their income streams and their offerings. By working in aggregation we look to make these products ACCESSIBLE to a wide population of backgrounds, financial, racial, and otherwise. And with a plan to offer a variety of programs and offerings, we look to become a RESOURCE for home cooks, canners, gardeners, and those looking to build confidence in their own KITCHEN LITERACY on their terms. And for myself, I do this because it is, at this time, the best way I know how to finesse and execute on my skills in HOSPITALITY, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, and SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE writ large, and the chance to put into PRACTICE what to some seem only to be theory.
Diaspora Kitchen does this for, first and foremost, those looking for a refuge, a home away from home. A place to grab a cup of coffee, a bite to eat, to retreat away from matters of work. We are, after all, a coffee shop and bake house, at least on the front of things. A place to think, a place to ask, and place to pick something up you might not have been expecting. We open our house to our guests, those open to PARTICIPATING and building themselves and their community. We encourage IMMEDIACY, and a willingness to be open to experience. And we seek to be an INCLUSIVE space; our guests come from all walks -- the home cook, the coffee geek, the experienced foodie and the person just curious and stepping into their own, and we seek to respect, interact, and encourage our guests on the path of their choosing.
And we do this as people who, ourselves, are on a path as builders, weavers, warriors, but at the front of it all we are HOSTS. Generous of spirit, and skilled in the range of knowledge that kitchens require, we invite people into our house to relax, enjoy, and learn. We are people who REVEL in that grandiose hospitality, that enjoy nothing more than finding the way to answer the unspoken need of our guests, to build a network of interactions that speak WARMTH, EXCITEMENT, and CURIOUSITY. We want to offer you something that makes your eyes light up, your pulse quicken, and make you say "what IS that?". We are the barista who knows the 20something ways to make coffee but will talk to you about your projects first. We are produce monger who offers you a taste of everything because taste will tell you a lot more than we can. We are the bakers who are happy to bake all sorts of loaves, but will be super excited when you decide to try it too, and will give you pointers to boot.
So to put this into a digestable nugget:
Diaspora Kitchen wants to build community, convivia, and confidence around food.
We bake & brew delicious things, with delicious ingredients, and want our community to do so too.
We do this by welcoming people into our house, and being the warmest, enthusiastic hosts we can be to our neighbors.
And with the intention of empowering our friends and neighbors, we do this all with empathy, encouragement, and the immediacy of experience.
We do this with an eye towards leaving our community better than when we joined it.
And we do this all in celebration of what we can accomplish through food & drink.
So. What do you say? Sound good to you?