Leave it better than you found it
Cluj-Napoca | Romania
We heard about the Scout House, something between a co-working space and a cafeteria, from local people from Cluj, which didn’t even know we are scouts. It got popular because they apply the anti-café idea: you don’t pay for what you consume, but for the time you spend there.
For me it’s much more logical to charge for service or space than sells something physical – says Alexandru Ioan But, co-founder. For example, when you go to a bar and ask for coffee, most of its price is actually going for rent, bills, salaries and a very small amount goes for the coffee itself. The anti-café is a new concept, at least in Cluj, and it seems to convince people.
Everything started from the challenge of having too many scouts, for whom the old space for meeting was not enough. What’s more, the previous meeting point was surrounded by flats, and the other fellow tenants were not that happy with the noise. And scouts can be really noisy… The leaders started to think about other solutions.
We didn’t really have money for another space. We asked the city hall for support, but they couldn’t help much. We started to brainstorm how we can sustain a place, what could we do outside of scout activities which will help us to pay the bills. Firstly we thought about a hostel, maybe a small camping, then about a training facility which we could rent to other organizations and companies. And then we discovered the idea of anti-café, there is one in Bucharest and maybe 1-2 in other places in Romania. We thought it may work here as well. We have hubs, co-working spaces in Cluj, but the anti-cafe is really different. You can come to drink a café here, we don’t facilitate work, we just give space for use.
Alexandru organized a meeting with older scouts, discussing what to do. Finally they set up an implementation team of 6 scouts and 2 leaders and decided to start.
We had the meeting at the end of February and we started the actual work in March 2016. The first part was to find the location. Some of us worked on that, others started to create a brand, logo, name, business plan, etc. Finding a place took quite a while. We searched a lot, for these kinds of places the rent is really expensive. We found this one in May. It looked completely different than now. There was no floor, no heating, no bathrooms, nothing. Before there was a pub here, but it burned up 7 years ago, and nothing really happened ever since. We managed to rent the space for a really low price, but with the agreement to invest quite a lot in renovation. We organized a crowdfunding campaign, which helped us to cover around 50% of the cost. And it also helped a lot in building community and informing people about what we want to do.
They finally opened the 9th of November, two months before our visit. But the place is already relatively full, they have many events, in fact it’s almost impossible to find a free date in their schedule. They are sustainable, meaning that they cover all the bills, although their work is done on a voluntary basis.
We had 6 volunteers who implemented the project. Their part ended when we opened a place. Since then me and another leader, Maria, are around here usually. We basically run the place and we have other scouts who come along and they can choose when they want to help. The project wouldn’t exist without them, without the scouts. It’s officially a scout place and all the community which was the base of the project was from scouting. We had at least 100 volunteers helping with renovation.
Alexandru quitted his job as software engineering, looking for challenges with more impact, closer to his local community. Most of the other volunteers are students, who besides helping the Scout House, do other community works within their scout program. Leaving the world better than we found it is Baden Powell’s main message. It’s also something in which Alexandru and other scout leaders strongly believe.
Be better. It’s really important to have a good life. Everybody is looking for happiness. If each person tries to base their happiness on helping, making sure that people around you are also happy, everything is easy. Just pay it forward.
More about Scout House: scouthouse.ro