OK, you and a few others have decided to start a regular (or even just a one-off) meeting. One of the first things to do is find a venue.
Decide what you need
There are a few things to think about here:
- How many people: are you going to attract just a small handful of people (5-6) or is this going to be something bigger?
- Do you want one regular venue: do you want the comfort of meeting in the same place every month or are you going to have a moving meeting that is somewhere new every time?
- Do you need Wifi: are you planning to have people tweet from the meeting (wifi can also allow people out of town to join in), or post tagged images to Flickr, even taking online minutes?
- Plug points: if you need to have laptops etc then does the venue have free to use powerpoints (increasingly common in cafes that want to attract remote workers)?
- Are you planning to have a speaker: if you are, then are they expecting to just turn up and chat or do they want to deliver a more formal presentation, will this be from a laptop or projected onto a piece of wall?
Where to meet
We call it a Harm Reduction Cafe mainly because one of the ideas we based this on was the Social Media Cafe. Cafes are of course great venues, they have coffee, food and usually comfortable seating and tables. But you might prefer meeting somewhere else, like a local pub. Of course, you have to realise this is going to change the kind of meeting you'll have as over the course of the evening it's likely to become more informal as more alcohol is consumed, but it's also important to remember that because of the nature of drugs workers/activists there may be people who identify as being in recovery from alcohol.
The bigger the group becomes the more difficult it is to find a venue, most pubs and cafes are happy to have an extra 10 people turn up on a friday and spend money, but 25 people coming into a quiet cafe and taking loudly about drugs is a different matter.
Asking for permission
There is a phrase I love "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission". There is nothing stopping you just picking your favorite cafe and setting up a meeting. But if you want to be able to come back and get great service, it can be a good idea to talk to the owner (easier with independent cafes than it is with Starbucks) and see when it would be best for them. Most places have nights that they know will be quieter. You might even be pleasantly surprised - one cafe that hosted a Social Media Cafe event for us even gave everyone attending a free glass of mulled wine as a Christmas present and stayed open three hours later for us.