Basic Income Café

2019 | Economic Café Installation
In this interactive installation, visitors are able to experience two different basic income economies, whereby coffee is used to visualise the cash flow. One system provides a basis that is sufficient to meet all basic needs, the other provides a helping hand and assumes there is extra income to achieve a full (basic) income. The coffee metaphor is used as an accessible context to provide insight into a complex concept and to enter into conversations about money and politics.

The idea of an unconditional basic income (UBI), is a prominent topic in progressive economics. This complex idea is often understood in a rather simplistic scenario where every citizen receives a guaranteed monthly income, hopefully enough to live by, with no questions asked. But basic income is not basic income! There are many interpretations around, meaning the real question is not whether to implement this idea but what kind of basic income economy would be desirable?
Upon entering the café, visitors receive a free ‘cup of basic income’. They see where the coffee came from, and if they want more, they just need to ‘go to work’ (grind coffee beans). That way, value is generated (brewn) – part of which is their extra salary (additional income) – the other part flows off as tax contribution to the communal coffee pot. And so the economic circle continues.
Visitors are provoked to experience the underlying economic models first hand and while interacting with other participants are able to test potential social situations in the basic income scenarios. What happens to our work ethics? Will there be enough coffee for all or do we fall into a “financial crisis” ( = run out of coffee)? How do people invest the ‘extra’ energy they got? By creating an environment in which these social and economic futures can be prototyped, the café acts as a research tool to find out where the public sees the optimal relation between work and income. For that reason the café opened for 3 months as a public pop-up café in The Hague, which included a series of semi-structured interviews with people from all walks of life. In essence, research on basic income is translated, and shared within an engaging educational format, through which new knowledge is gathered, to again inform further political action.

This project is supported by BankGiro Loterij Fonds, Stichting Zwerfjongeren Nederland, The Grey Space in the Middle and Moyee Coffee. Advisors and collaborators: Manon van Hoeckel, Marleen van der Kolk (SZN) and drift – research institute for transition management. Basic Income Café started out as one of two graduation projects at the Design Academy Eindhoven under the mentorship of Ryan Pescatore Frisk. The project was nominated for both the Swiss Design Awards and the Dutch Design Awards.
Photographers (top to bottom): Sabine Rovers, Karin Fischnaller, Iris Rijskamp