How It Works
Note: How this works is up to everyone who is involved. The following is a proposal, and will be revised and confirmed by the entire group.
We are approaching Soupçon Salon as an antidote to the dominant paradigm, in which people are pitted against each other in competition. We believe that our liberation is rooted in a community where all people are valued equally. So instead of upholding a hierarchical model of operation, this collective is a collaborative and egalitarian experiment that you are invited to join. There are some core concepts and guiding values at the foundation of this project, some taken directly from adrienne marie brown’s Emergent Strategy.
- Capitalism has failed us.
- Liberation is rooted in community care.
- Making art is a pathway to fulfillment and freedom.
- Small is good, small is all. (The large is a reflection of the small.)
- Change is constant, be like water.
- There is always enough time for the right work. There is a conversation in the room that only these people at this moment can have. Find it.
- Never a failure, always a lesson.
- Trust the people. If you trust people, they become trustworthy.
- Move at the speed of trust.
- Critical connections over critical mass -- build the resilience by building the relationships.
- Less prep, more presence.
- What you pay attention to grows.
Why are we doing this?
"The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible."
-- Toni Cade Bambara
We are all tired of Capitalism. The pandemic has amplified its failings, and has more clearly revealed its related structures of inequity and colonial artifacts. But what is the best, fairest alternative? We will find out. Soupçon allows us to experiment with alternative ways of living and interacting. This is a social experiment that aims to prove that more compassionate societies are not only possible, but can thrive. This is not to say that we will get everything right, and we will most certainly need to adjust the dials along the way.
We value collaboration, accountability, diversity, and joy. We work to uplift and center the most vulnerable among us. Consistent government failings and pandemic-imposed isolation have exacerbated the divisions among us. We want to see this end. There is no savior that will swoop in and make things better. We have only ourselves and we embark on this journey out of love for our families, our friends, and our community. Soupçon is a city-wide commune that will teach us to work together, in harmony.
Luckily, we do have some promising guides as we set out to create a better society. In 2020, Dean Spade published a book on practical organizing called Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (And The Next). Spade defines "mutual aid" as collective coordination to meet each other's needs, usually from an awareness that the systems we have in place are not going to meet them. We see examples of mutual aid in every single social movement, whether it's raising money for workers on strike, putting drinking water in the desert for migrants crossing the border, or coordinating letter-writing to prisoners. These are mutual aid projects. They directly meet people's survival needs, and are based on a shared understanding that the conditions in which we are made to live are unjust.
Today, many of us live in the most atomized societies in human history, which makes our lives less secure and undermines our ability to organize together to change unjust conditions on a larger scale. We are put into competition with each other for survival, and we are forced to rely on hostile systems for the things we need. In this context, mutual aid -- where we choose to help each other out, share things, and put time and resources into caring for the most vulnerable -- is a radical act. It's how we build solidarity and enable real positive change to take root and grow.
What is a Beneficiary Society?
Soupcon Salon is a Beneficiary Society that falls under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(8). Most people think of not-for-profits as 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, but there are many nonprofits that have different strategies for helping people. This is an important distinction because Soupçon Salon is not a "charitable" organization.
Charity, aid, relief, and social services are terms that usually refer to rich people or the government making decisions about the provision of some kind of support for poor people -- that is, rich people or the government deciding who gets the help, and what strings are attached. You can be sure that help like that is not designed to get to the root causes of poverty and violence. It's designed to help improve the image of the elites who are funding it and put a tiny, inadequate bandage on the massive social wound that their greed creates. No, Soupçon is not a charity.
What is it then?
Soupçon Salon is a Beneficiary Society, which simply means it operates with a uniting purpose and provides benefits to its partners. Historically Beneficiary Societies, sometimes called "Fraternal Orders," have provided benefits like insurance, money for burial services, and bulk discount purchasing to their members. Some examples today include The Loyal Order of Moose, The Masons, police unions, and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America. However, these organizations have exclusionary membership practices and very different values. In contrast, Soupçon is a non-exclusionary society, meaning anyone is allowed to join. Mutual aid is the framework in which we seek to define and offer our partner benefits. The only requirement for partnership is that you must agree with our core principle, which is:
"We unite people with the common goals of working on collective excellence and facilitating a voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit."
We may be getting ahead of ourselves, but one notable facet of Beneficiary Societies is that they can be replicated in other communities, further expanding our ability to connect and share.
We specifically call people in our society partners, not members, for two reasons. The word “member” sounds both too exclusive and too passive. Soupçon is inclusive and partners are expected to be active participants in the creating the society they want to see. In other words, partners are expected to get their hands dirty once in a while. Working toward utopia is hard work, but we can do it together.
Partners pay yearly dues of $60 ($5/month) to join, and can sign up on the website or by visiting the cafe. The dues are used to make sure operations go smoothly, to pay the rent, and to maintain equipment and property. It can also be used to fund projects and additional partner benefits.
Partners currently receive many benefits:
Not that we see it as a "benefit," since inclusivity should simply be the way things are. We design our systems of living with a commitment to including all. We work together to dismantle internalized systems of oppression and keep each other accountable. We support and center our most vulnerable and our most oppressed members of the community and society at large. We support a vegan and compassionate vegetarian menu to fight climate change and to reduce suffering in the world.
Partners are able to dine, with their guests, in the beautiful cafe. This is a chill space. All are welcome. The music is local. The menu is local, vegetarian & vegan, and a fraction of the price for an equivalent meal elsewhere in town. The outdoor garden is a relaxing sanctuary with a rustic fountain, flowers, and fresh produce for the kitchen. With the exception of one event reservation per year for Patron Partners, event and cafe seating is first-come, first-serve.
Chef in Residence Program
Soupçon aims too uplift all local aspiring artists and the culinary arts are not an exception. Soupçon offers a three-month residency for emerging chefs who want to showcase their art. The chefs source their own menus, which are supplemented by Soupçon's relationships with local farms and CSAs. The chefs take home 80% of all meal sales. Chefs in residence, or "guest chefs", are also encouraged to produce canned, dried, or otherwise preserved food items for sale in the shop, as are general partners. Chefs may be expected to provide the one day of service, perhaps in the form of a public "soup kitchen," for which ingredients will be sourced by Soupçon Salon.
Soupçon seeks to offer direct assistance to those experiencing life difficulties. In a time when many people don't have other places to turn, Soupçon will listen to community needs. We will work to meet those needs and support the well-being of our community.
All partners have access to the space from Tuesday through Friday with a requested donation of $50/night, with optional catering at extra charge. The space can fit around 35 seated patrons inside.
Artists and Craftspeople Showcases
The walls are for local art. How that will be done will be up to those who get involved in shaping the gallery.
A big part of working together is teaching other people how to do things. Partners are encouraged to host a class on anything useful, creative, or empowering. This could be how to build websites, knit hats, figure drawing in watercolor, or make baskets out of materials from the path along the canal, or whatever! Let's share our skills!
If you have ever performed in this space, you know there is magic. We intend to hold weekly, curated events at Soupçon Salon in the model of the original event, and we would love all the local musicians to have a chance to shine in front of their neighbors. These events will be recorded and live-streamed to RadioFreeLambertville.com. Attendees are encouraged to contribute a tip to the performer.
We have a PA and a space large enough for a 3-4 piece band or 4 musicians if we want to reach the maximum capacity of 35. And of course, there is always open mic night.
Guidance and Leadership
We're all in this experiment together. We need to meet to make decisions and resolve issues. We need to adapt as new partners come in with fresh ideas and as conditions inevitably change. How do we do this without hierarchy?
Partner meetings take place in person once a month, with an option for remote participation. All partners have a say in our path forward, and decisions are made via consensus. As the group becomes larger, we will create teams that work on short or long-term projects and report back or submit proposals to the larger group. Decisions are transparent and made in accordance with the process defined by the group.
The first team we must create is a "Board of Directors," which is required by the IRS. The Soupçon Board of Directors make operational or administrative decisions to keep the organization running. In contrast to more passive and hierarchical organizations, the Soupçon Board of Directors does not have the power to make certain decisions without the larger group's approval. It will be up to the society to decide which decisions require consensus among the larger group.
What is a Patron Partner?
Patron Partners are the core supporters of our organization. Without them, this would not be possible. While not tax-deductible, you know that as a Patron Partner you're supporting a community that is making things better in the world around us. Patron Partners pay $600 per year ($50/month).
Patron Partners benefits:
- Reservation for two at one event per year. (We otherwise do not take reservations.)
- Name recognition. (optional)
- One complimentary meal per month.
How Can I Help?
We have no shortage of work to make this happen. No one partner should be taking on a majority of the work. To make delegating easier, we have a living to-do list you can browse to see if any tasks meet your skillset.
Are you interested in being a part of this as a partner (at any level) as we are getting it off the ground? If the answer is yes, we are also asking for your feedback and help in guiding this project. There is no obligation at this point, but early involvement will help us get this off the ground. Please subscribe to our mailing list below if you are interested in learning more and possibly being involved in this creative act. Soupçon will be a space for all of us to grow in together.