As we look back on this year, we have been reflecting on where we put our attention, our efforts, our visibility, and our brain power, within our doors and beyond. We are grateful for the recognition we have received, but we also know that the work we have done is just a piece of the puzzle. The more we get involved, the more we realize how much more work needs to be done. We are humbled by the way our community continues to support us and thrilled that we can continue to support our community. Through dollars, events, partnerships, and real life personal relationships that matter most to us, support from our community is paramount.
This fall we applied for the Force for Positive Change grant, with the hope that this grant could give us greater capacity to expand the work we do. Phase One of the application required us to explain our mission and describe the indicators, data, and outcomes of our work. Phase Two required us to make this short video further illustrating this. While we ultimately didn’t receive the grant, it was a good exercise for us to reflect on the way we do things, and how we will move forward.
As a for-profit business doing and supporting the work that a lot of nonprofits do, applying for the grant had its challenges. Because we lack concrete indicators and the measurable impact/outcomes they asked for, we had only qualitative means to work with. We don’t have committees or panels measuring our impact and we don’t have a board of advisors to answer to. But we see this as a positive thing; this gives us the time and space to be able to listen directly to community partners and ask how we can best support them without other voices getting in the way. Because of this, we can afford to invest more time and money into the community organizations that are already doing the work in the way they have proven it needs to be done.
Instead we measure our success by the success of the organizations we support. Take a look at the 2013 Race to Equity Report – a clear demonstration of the gross disparity between black and white residents in Dane County. Then look at the success and great strides of the organizations fighting for racial equity (you’ll find a handful of them linked at the bottom of this post) and you will see why we are persistent in our mission. Our involvement with these organizations is valuable because with collaboration the outcomes in our community will be far more healthy and sustainable for all.
Similarly, when people ask us if what we’re doing is working, or if people feel comfortable and safe in our restaurant, we tell them to ask the people from historically and presently marginalized communities this question. It is not our place to answer and it is the feedback from these individuals and groups that tells us if we are making a difference. Their voices and experiences are the indicators and the true measure of our work.
Our structure looks different from other organizations in that we’re a breakfast restaurant in downtown Madison. Most people aren’t expecting to be confronted with issues of race equity or sustainable purchasing power during their weekend brunch–and that’s what we love. We’re conversation starters that are asking our customers and community to try harder, speak up, and get involved.
And with involvement comes change. Over the past few years we have focused on broad-spectrum sustainability and we are seeing these visions and changes shift the culture and conversation within our restaurant and community. We have examined our hiring practices and on-boarding processes, invested in education for ourselves and our employees, partnered with powerful nonprofits, focused on inclusion, and transformed our space and practices to match these values.
These simple but powerful gestures and decisions have gotten a lot of (for the most part positive) feedback. We have received a lot of love on social media, had many important follow-up conversations, and have been with gratitude for being an inclusive business with social impact. It is humbling to be told that the work we do actually makes a difference in people’s lives. We take it to heart when someone tells us they chose to come inside because they saw the Black Lives Matter sign or the Trans Flag and instantly felt welcome. We are honored to be featured in articles like this one published in Them. About a month ago we received this beautiful card that touched us deeply, vividly reminding us why we do what we do:
This is what it’s about. These affirmations keep us going, keep us motivated, and keep us in a state of constant humility. We want to continue hearing from you, beautiful people of the Madison community, about the things that matter to you and how we can do better and be better. But we need you to get involved too. It takes a village, a city, a well-fed community to do this work the right way; consider it our promise to keep serving you all-day breakfast in the process.
Big shout out to these community partners, leaders, and friends—you inspire us daily:
Nehemiah/Justified Anger, Just Dane/Just Bakery, Freedom Inc, Urban Triage, Lilada Gee/Black Woman Heal, Progress Center for Black Women, Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, Sustain Dane – the list goes on…