A couple months ago, I asked for advice on how to create a network between very small NGOs active in the crafts sector in villages and towns in the northern part of Cyprus.
The advice I got: “Invite them for a coffee.” Could it possibly be that simple?
One of UNDP's innovation partners is Nesta, and they've been experimenting with randomized coffee meetings.
This how Nesta describes the idea on their blog:
“Nesta staff that have opted-in are sent a weekly randomized match with another Nesta staff member and the two are invited to grab a coffee together. There are no requirements or obligations regarding the topics discussed, some [randomized coffee trials] are spent entirely on work-related matters, others are entirely personal in nature. It is just a coffee, but at the same time it is much more.”
At the beginning of the year, thanks to funding from the European Union, the UNDP Partnership for the Future Programme in Cyprus launched a call for proposals for innovative cultural activities in the northern part of Cyprus.
The aim was to complement some of the community development, rehabilitation and infrastructure projects completed in several towns and villages with a cultural component – in the hopes of unlocking the economic and social potential of the renovated squares, buildings, and monuments.
The office kept getting requests for traditional handicraft workshops – a bit of a surprise for us. We now have approximately 250 women involved in different handicraft workshops throughout the northern part of Cyprus – and I, myself, am becoming an expert at traditional Cypriot embroidery, wood carving, silk work and looming.
The technical skills of these women at the start of the project was quite high, and so was their enthusiasm. In villages where public spaces – such as coffee shops – are traditionally used by men, the workshops gave local women an opportunity to use the renovated spaces for their social and community events and gatherings.
The team was pretty happy, but we felt that we had involuntarily stepped into a new world full of potential.So a couple weeks ago, we organized our first Cypriot handicrafts coffee meeting.
Meeting for the first time, 12 craftswomen – both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots – came for coffee, not really knowing what to expect.
We didn't know what to expect either. All we knew was that we wanted to bring together craftspeople from both communities to simply meet each other.
Quite soon into our coffees, I was left out of the conversation as the women starting talking about knitting techniques, and crocheting.
Our hope is that these informal coffee meetings – if we make them a regular event – can help build new friendships and opportunities for collaboration between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot craftspeople. Let's see what will happen – maybe some new partnerships, or products? At the very least, a friendly cultural exchange.
Stay tuned for updates from the creative craftspeople from Cyprus!