GERMANY: “Basic Income Café” provides center for UBI-related activities in Berlin
Café Grundeinkommen, a tiny coffee shop in Berlin, Germany, doubles as a center for meetings and discussion of basic income. The café is now preparing to release a prototype of Circles, a cryptocurrency designed by one of its founders as a means to implement basic income.
Members of Berlin Basic Income first discussed plans for a basic income café in June 2016, inspired by Swiss People’s Initiative. The hub of the Swiss campaign–which culminated that month in a highly publicized vote on a national referendum on basic income–was a café in Basel, unternehmen mitte, cofounded and managed by basic income advocate Daniel Häni.
A year later, in June 2017, Café Grundeinkommen opened as part of the Tinyhouse university project, an art exhibition at the Bauhaus Archive Museum in Berlin.
The café contains a small library for its guests–consisting of one shelf and a coffee table stocked with books on basic income, alternative economics, and cryptocurrency–and provides meeting place for small groups (including the weekly meetings of a local branch of Bündnis Grundeinkommen, a basic income political party competing in Germany’s federal elections in September). Due to its diminutive size, Café Grundeinkommen cannot house meetings of more than ten people. However, its team holds larger events at nearby buildings–such as a recent public presentation on Basic Income on the Blockchain held at the Bauhaus Pavilion.
Currently open five afternoons per week, Café Grundeinkommen serves direct-trade coffee from the Berlin-based roastery Populus, meeting its commitment to using only “local, ethical, and sustainable” coffee.
In addition to coffee, the café offers one or two kinds of baked goods each day, usually vegan muffins or cookies.
Soon, guests of Café Grundeinkommen will be able to purchase coffee and snacks using a prototype version of Circles–a cryptocurrency designed by one café’s founders, Martin Köppelmann, as a possible mechanism for implementing universal basic income.
In the proposed monetary system, first put forth by Köppelmann at Berlin Basic Income’s inaugural meeting in December 2015, all individuals have their own currencies, in which their basic income grants would be paid. To engage in market exchanges, they must create “trust connections” with others with whom they are willing to trade currency. Exchanges can occur between–and only between–individuals who trust one another’s currencies.
Köppelmann believes that such a digital currency provides the best medium for the distribution of a universal basic income. In his explainer “Introducing Circles,” he writes, “A world wide basic income is something so powerful that no single entity in the world should have control over it in order to preclude manipulation. Particularly, there should be no central authority that decides which person can get a basic income and which person cannot.”
Café Grundeinkommen is currently nearing the launch of an app to put Circles to its first “real world” test. Users of the app will receive monthly credits (their “basic income”), which they will be able to use to “buy” products at the café, in addition to food from HolyFoods House (a food-sharing house neighboring the café), usage hours at the co-working space The New Work Studio, and tickets to events at the Bauhaus Campus.
Café Grundeinkommen’s Ronit Kory told Basic Income News, “We want to see how people will use it on their own, encouraging them to use the app to offer their own goods and services, including ones that might not be considered conventionally valuable in a capitalist system.”
It should be noted that the release of the prototype version of Circles is not a trial of basic income, merely a trial of a type of currency that Köppelmann proposes as a means by which a UBI might be distributed.
In addition to launching the Circles app, Café Grundeinkommen is planning monthly meetings featuring various speakers on subjects related to basic income, which it will announce on its Facebook and MeetUp pages.
Reviewed by Russell Ingram.
Photos used by permission from Cafe Grundeinkommen – Berlin’s Basic Income Cafe. Cover photo: Ronit Kory stands outside Café Grundeinkommen during its construction.