From a Facebook Meme to a Global Movement 2013-2016
In March 2013, just before Easter, Suspended Coffee was little more than a viral Facebook meme of an old Italian tradition– Caffè Sospeso. From different parts of the world, a diverse group of individuals latched onto this amazing idea. Some created websites, some created Facebook pages, some wrote news articles, and some just started asking their local businesses to offer Suspended Coffee.
The image above shows where the idea stands today. Not bad for 3 years!
How the Suspended Coffee movement evolved
After the initial rush of interest, the movement consolidated and John Sweeney emerged as the leader and Chief Kindness Officer of the movement. His Facebook Page amassed a respectable 300,000+ followers. He next built a website, which is now the primary hub of the movement with a searchable database of over 2000 places that offer Suspended Coffee.
John gave an inspiring Tedx talk a year ago on the importance of kindness. He has run a few crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for his website and other efforts. Huffington Post, NPR, Upworthy have all featured Mr. Sweeney and Suspended Coffee. His dedication and hard work have are the main reason Suspended Coffee is thriving.
Others have continued the movement at local and national levels. Greece is experiencing a resurgence of interest due to the work of some dedicated students. There are a couple other websites dedicated to this idea, other Facebook pages, and an untold number of nameless individuals quietly working to make this an international phenomenon.
Fighting crime with Suspended Pizza
Suspended Coffee has spilled over into other types of food and services. Notably, Rosa’s Pizza in Philadelphia started offering pizza suspended-style. In 2015 Rosa’s customers were feeding 30-40 needy people a day, or about 10% of the business. According to Rosa’s owner, Mason Wartman, his customers have told him that the the warm meals prevent them from engaging in petty crime to get food.
“I knew it saved people money,” Mr. Wartman said. “I hadn’t considered that it stopped people from committing crime.” from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Suspended Pizza even made its way back to Italy, the birthplace of Caffè Sospeso, where some restaurants now offer Pizza Sospeso.
Fighting Economic Turmoil in Greece
In November 2015, Dimitris Panelis and a group of students at the Delos School of Dramatic Arts in Greece made a short video. It not only went viral, it appeared on local news programs. The enterprising students have inspired over 200 establishments in Greece to participate. They are trying to broaden the movement to not only serve the homeless, but the unemployed, poorer students, and senior citizens on restricted income. They are also expanding into other businesses “fast-food establishments, bakeries, patisseries, butcher’s shops and even hair salons.” –Ekathimerini
This highlights one of the little recognized benefits of Suspended Coffee. Purchasing a Suspended Coffee (or other item), not only helps a person in need, it also supports a local business, including the employees who depend in it for income. This makes it ideal for helping communities to weather economic crises. The community’s most vulnerable get support. The money stays local and supports local businesses. The community and local economy grow stronger. Win-Win-Win.
Far beyond anything I could have imagined
I knew this was a good idea that first day I read that Facebook post, but never could I have imagined how this would take off. That first night when I was frantically throwing together this website to provide tools and a voice for this revolutionary idea, I only knew I had to do something. I had an inkling of the idea’s power when my flyer appeared in a news show in Australia less than a week after I created it. Even then I would not have imagined the thousands of businesses around the globe that have embraced this.
I can’t wait to see what happens to Suspended Coffee in another three years.