News Cafes Bring Local Engagement for Oakland Local

George Kelly/Flickr

Oakland Local has launched a series of community issue-oriented breakfasts at cafes around that Bay-Area city, discussing events we have covered – and they’re selling out. Inspired by Beacon & Eggs, the St. Louis Beacon’s long-running monthly meet and greet, the Oakland Local team organized Oakland News Cafe.

The first event, titled “Imagining the Future of Innovative Retail,” took place at a downtown advertiser’s cafe and sold out with 50 people attending. The second, “Social Media and Social Movements in Oakland,” was held at a cafe in Jack London Square, another local community. The second event also sold out, with more than 50 people attending.

We’re planning three more News Cafes in this series; the next will be “Innovation in Education,” and will take place in April in Oakland’s Grand Lake district. The monthly events combine coffee-and-pastry-fueled chats with a current-events focused panel discussion.

What’s been great about these events has been the mix of long-time Oakland Local readers and people who are new to us, but who are community minded and interested in the issues we cover.

“We’ve got a great cross-section,” said Kwan Booth, Oakland Local’s co-founder and one of the organizers. “And the move to different cafes supports local business and makes it accessible to more people.”

We use Eventbrite to register attendees, and offer sliding-scale pricing, ranging from $4 to $7 for coffee, a pastry, and community-driven conversation. A sponsor – usually a local business or non-profit – helps underwrite the cost. At each session, attendees are given an issue-focused briefing sheet with information about the topic, links to Oakland Localstories, and bios of the panelists.

Events are promoted via house ads, the Oakland Local newsletter, Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

“It’s been interesting to see just how many people are clicking on the Twitter links,” said Debi Mason, Oakland Local’s marketing and promotions manager. “Twitter is huge for driving interest in these events.”

These morning events have been an effective way to build closer community connections, bring stories to life, and drive discussion. In Oakland, they’ve been quite popular, and will most likely pave the way for more live Oakland Local events.

Photo courtesy of George Kelly.