How to make an office into a community center
February 23, 2018 1:01 PM   Subscribe

I volunteer periodically at a non-profit with a fairly strong membership and outreach component. Though the office has a large open area to welcome guests/members who would be interested in meeting, hanging out or doing work related to the non-profit, no one does this. I have the opportunity to make the space more welcoming - but how do I do this?

They currently have "open office" hours in the weekday afternoons. Weekends would be better, but just aren't available right now. There is a fairly large population of retirees and students who are members and would be free during the afternoons to use the space, and that is most likely who they would want to attract.

There is a comfortable sitting area with plenty of sunlight. There is someone to welcome and chat with people. For a while, there was a sandwich board outside welcoming people inside and a good amount of foot traffic. There are items related to the non-profit available for reading. Free parking is available nearby, as well as easy transit and bike parking. They also have free wi-fi.

The space would only be open to members - so there would need to be some checking people in, to ensure that it is available for people affiliated with the org.

So far, few people come into the space. I believe there is some history of the space not being welcoming (in set up and in attitude) that would need to be overcome. What can be done to make the space more of a community center and less of a conventional office?
posted by Toddles to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have a self-serve coffee station, and a jigsaw puzzle started on a table. My library has that setup and there are so many retirees spending time in that room!
posted by xo at 1:48 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you maintain a member email list, send out a notice announcing the opening of the member's lounge. Specify the days and hours of availability. And yes to beverages, jigsaw puzzles, maybe plants? Breaking up the area into smaller sections might help, so no one person drops by, sees four people around the only table, and assumes the space has been reserved for a particular group meeting.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:10 PM on February 23, 2018

A few board games along with the jigsaw. Chess, checkers, a deck of cards.
Maybe refreshments of some sort. If just coffee, make sure water is easily available, too.
A stash of books for free (with a sign) somewhere.
posted by stormyteal at 2:14 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Food. The answer is food. Just have food. Not necessarily every day and not even that much. Like "Fresh Fruit Fridays" would probably go a long way.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:27 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Power strips for charging devices?
posted by Aleyn at 2:36 PM on February 23, 2018

Can you add some sort of organized activity during the time to draw people's interest?
posted by florencetnoa at 2:37 PM on February 23, 2018

My college has a centre for indigenous students (although everyone is welcome there). It's a very welcoming space and there are always students, instructors, staff, and elders hanging out when I go in.

Some things I think help:

-whiteboards with friendly messages and reminders about upcoming events, plus coloured whiteboard pens so people can decorate and leave nice encouraging messages for others ("Tanya B. won the 2018 Indigenous Youth Spirit award! Great job!")
-a coffee station--people pay $5 into the kitty per month for unlimited coffee
-frequent potlucks and other events with snacks provided
-a beading/craft station
-computers for people to use
-displays with objects student artisans/artists have made
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:44 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

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