Since its inception in 2003, the University of the Streets Café has focused on creating welcoming spaces where diverse groups of citizens can gather to share their unique experiences and perspectives. To date, we have organized over 400 public conversations in cafés and community spaces across Montreal.
We believe that the simple act of talking with one another provides an incredible opportunity for growth, empowerment, community building and social change. With this in mind, the programming we offer is about real-time, people-centered, face-to-face public conversations. As a flagship program of Concordia University’s Office of Community Engagement, the bilingual events organized by University of the Streets Café are free and open to participants of all ages, backgrounds and levels of education.
- It’s ok to start simple. We accept that it’s impossible to cover everything in a 2 hour conversation and believe that the intelligence of the group always brings the conversation where it needs to go.
- Public conversations cannot be all things to all people. These events do not seek to cover all views, nor do they attempt to resolve complex problems in a single night.
- Experience matters just as much as expertise. The most successful conversations are a blend of both, making the space feel intimate and memorable, but also educational.
- Safe and inclusive spaces are created, not stated. We do our best to create respectful spaces and include everyone but we know that a) conversations are still public and b) people will always be excluded by virtue of topic, language, venue, outreach, etc.
- Technology stunts participation. The use of microphones, power point presentations and recording devices of any kind inhibits participation and changes the dynamic of a conversation. Instead our events emphasize the value of real-time, face-to-face interactions.
- Each person participates differently. We encourage our participants to share the space by being mindful of their speaking time and we try to make room for our shyer participants, but we never force anyone to speak. Listening is an equally important part of any conversation.