Philadelphia community rises to ‘Coffeehouse Challenge’

By Daina Havens
March 30, 2006

Dan Squire

Philadelphia community members are joining efforts with Starbucks and The Ben Franklin Tercentenary to present a challenge for change: a Coffeehouse Challenge, that is. Between January and June of 2006, Coffeehouse Challenge meetings will be held in Starbucks all across the Delaware Valley and Central Philadelphia. These meetings are described as “informal and lively discussion where community members share their thoughts on particular local concerns and, more importantly, generate potential solutions,” according to the official website,

Twenty-six local volunteer facilitators, ranging from business owners to non-profit organization leaders and even to concerned neighbors, have committed themselves to tackle local issues, including education, the arts, racism and health awareness, according to Cheri LaSpada, the account director at Alta Communications. Each of these facilitators has the support of both Starbucks and The Ben Franklin Tercentenary, and in Sept. 2006, Starbucks will award $3,000 to each of the five most effective Coffeehouse Challengers to help them in their campaign for change.

“A Coffeehouse Challenge meeting is an opportunity to do things differently; to transform an ‘ordinary meeting’ into a place of exploration, support, new ideas, encouragement and enjoyment,” LaSpada said.

Nicola Twilly, the director of public programming for The Ben Franklin Tercentenary, said that the goal of their programming is to not only teach people about Ben Franklin, but to also expose them to his values that are still present in society today.

CBS 3, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Daily News and have all found their inner Franklin by sponsoring this event.

Jonathon Loy, the general director of the Center City Opera Theater, held the most recent meeting on March 23, with arts education in the greater Philadelphia area on the agenda for the evening.

“We are hosting a series of Coffeehouse Challenges to invite members of the community to share their ideas about how we can inspire a love of the arts, music and opera, in particular, starting in elementary school and continuing throughout life,” Loy said.

Another Challenge also took place on March 29, concentrating on the possibility of a community information exchange center on South Street, Philadelphia, described as “a place where people can explore their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual passions through education and the arts,” according to the website.

“We know historically that the coffeehouse has served as a place of debate and discussion.

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Daina Havens

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