Five years ago, Grand Café Utopie opened its doors to provide space for idealists. This was an initiative of Utopie lawyers. Dozens of idealists have joined the cooperative association that operates the Grand Café since then, as cooperative members, volunteers or staff members. Over the years, Utopie has welcomed many idealists and facilitated many different social events, but we are not yet where we would like to be. The time has come to secure Utopie’s future. Utopie is, therefore, turning to you, as idealists and utopians, with the invitation to enhance the cooperative’s support base and to join us in thinking about how we can, together, achieve the goal of being and remaining a leading and financially healthy meeting space for idealists.
How we got here
The first five years have been tough for us as a cooperative: higher renovation costs than expected, a somewhat slow build-up of “brand awareness” and the corona pandemic. Only since last fall has the situation somewhat returned to “normal”. More and more idealists have been able to find us (again), as a result of which there are currently about thirty meetings per month in the Grand Café. So, although the Grand Café is certainly not doing badly, it is not yet the meeting place for idealists that we had in mind, nor is it yet in a sustainably healthy financial situation. This is mainly because we aim to make our meeting place accessible to all groups and organizations who strive for a green and just society, even if these groups’ budgets do not allow for a rental at a regular fee that would enable us to cover our costs. In order to achieve this aim, we try to make use of contributions from various sources, such as having financially strong organizations pay a higher, commercial rate to ensure that groups that are less well-off can also rent the space at a discounted rate. In other words, Robin Hood style. We have not yet found the optimal balance in this, which means that we have not yet achieved a healthy, cost-covering financial operation of the Grand Café.
What is working well
Before focusing on areas of improvement and growth, we would like to mention what is going well. First, we have a strong team of permanent employees who put their heart and soul into Utopie: Robert (hospitality), Kim (rentals), Selina (publicity) and Neriman (hygiene). The team excels at facilitating socially relevant gatherings; whether it is a meeting, a lecture, a debate or a course, Utopie has the knowledge and facilities to accommodate almost all activities and to ensure the events run smoothly and pleasantly. Finally, as Utopie has become increasingly known, a large number of fellow idealists have been able to find their way to the Grand Café.
What could be improved
But there is room for improvement. The fact is that Utopie is currently more often not used than it is used, and the meeting function, which is distinct from the event function and which centers on bringing together different groups of idealists, has not yet really taken off. It is, therefore, high time we took new steps as a cooperative to ensure we grow into a lively and busy Grand Café. Your help as fellow idealists and utopists is warmly invited!
How you can help
There are several steps we can take together to achieve our goal:
• increasing the use of Utopie
• recruiting donors for the Utopie Foundation (Stichting Utopie)
• recruiting members for the Utopie Cooperative Association
1. You can help increase the use of Utopie
The Grand Café is viable only if enough idealists use the space and pay for the use of the space (according to their means). This is because the income from rentals for public and private events is the main source of income and at the moment the paid rentals do not cover the fixed costs. You would, therefore, be doing our cooperative a great service if you could help increase the use of Utopie by encouraging organizations and initiatives in your area to make use of our beautiful space.
2. You can become a donor
As a donor of Utopie Foundation, you can support idealistic organizations that cannot afford to pay the regular (cost covering) rental fee. These organizations can apply to Utopie Foundation for a financial contribution to cover part of the bill; depending on the funds available from donations, the Foundation could then cover part of the rent, which would enable such organizations to rent the space against a lower, discounted fee. As a donor, you can choose to make a one-off or a periodic (!) donation to account number NL37 TRIO 0379397412 in the name of Stichting Utopie. On the Utopie website, this can be done using IDEAL via this link. An application for ANBI status is underway; this would mean that the Foundation is recognized as a public benefit organization and donations would be largely tax deductible. Once granted, this will apply retroactively from January 1, 2023.
3. You can become a member of the cooperative
As a member of the cooperative, you support the purpose of the cooperative. A cooperative is an association to which a company is attached, which does not have profit as a purpose. In our case, that business is Grand Café Utopie. The daily operations are in the hands of a small professional team of employees. This team works in consultation with the cooperative’s board, which is elected by the members of the cooperative. At the biannual general meeting, the board is accountable for the policies pursued.
The extent to which members are involved varies from member to member. Some members take on tasks such as fundraising and publicity, while others limit their involvement to paying the membership fee. What is most important to the functioning of the cooperative is not so much the degree of involvement of a member, as the degree of connection with a large number of idealists and organizations.
As a member of the cooperative, you pay a membership fee and a one-off amount for accession, and in return you get to influence the cooperative’s direction. Foundations and associations can also become members. More information about the costs can be found here: https://www.utopie.nl/home-utopie/membership/
To respond to our request for help or for more information and suggestions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or ask at the café for Marco, Etienne or Bernhard. You are also welcome to come to an info meeting that we will hold on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. in Utopie.
In the nearly five years of Utopie’s existence, the Grand Café has brought together thousands of idealists for a wide range of causes and activities. We believe that especially in these sometimes dystopian times, and in a government city like The Hague, a meeting place for idealists who strive for a green and just world should not be missing. We hope you still share this view and can contribute to the survival of the cooperative, because our journey to Utopie is far from reaching its destination.
“Utopia lies at the horizon. When I draw nearer by two steps, it retreats two steps. If I proceed ten steps forward, it swiftly slips ten steps ahead. No matter how far I go, I can never reach it. What, then, is the purpose of utopia? It is to cause us to advance.”
On behalf of Utopie,
Marco van Duijn
Kim van Hooijdonk