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Dialogue NB: Fostering social cohesion in New Brunswick

Posted on Monday July 11, 2022


Dialogue NB: Fostering social cohesion in New Brunswick

In keeping with its mission to make New Brunswick more socially cohesive, Dialogue NB plays a leading role in helping our communities live together in greater harmony. Its training workshops, mentorship activities and programs contribute to making our world a better, more humane place .

Café Inclusio is a great example of the kind of inclusive venture that Dialogue NB has supported through its Social Cohesion Lab for Youth—an initiative UNI is proud to support. Meet the founders of this one-of-a-kind business, run by and for people with a whole lotta heart.

Café Inclusio: A grand project with humble beginnings

Café Inclusio is a story of three proud parents and the unconditional love they have for their children with special abilities. Nathalie Perron (Samuel’s mother), had long dreamed of opening a coffee shop where people like her son could showcase their unique talents and thrive in an inclusive work environment. Drawing inspiration from cafés in Canada, Europe and the United States, such as  Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, Café Joyeux, Joe’s Table, Munch Cafe and Catering and L’Arche Tova Café, she set out to add her own personal twist to this list of inspiring and important initiatives.

She shared her idea with her long-time friends, Suzanne Boudreau and Pierre Arsenault (Joël’s parents), who jumped into the project with both feet. “When you have a child with special needs, you worry about their future,” says Nathalie. “As parents, we wanted to give our sons, and the entire community, an inclusive workplace where people like them could proudly come into their own, develop a sense of belonging and feel useful.”

No sooner said than done, Café Inclusio opened in 2018.

Learning the business ropes

café

It was a new beginning, so everything—including their knowledge of business—had to be built from scratch. “Nathalie and I are social workers in mental health,” says Suzanne. “Going into business was like learning a new language.”

To get their bearings in the new environment, the trio turned to a variety of mentors, asked for advice and ultimately decided to start small and grow slowly but surely. They started Café Inclusio as a mobile coffee shop that travels to various events to serve coffee and smiles to people in the community. “The investment is minimal and we have few fixed costs so we can experiment without taking too many risks,” says Pierre.

Dialogue NB: Custom coaching for inclusive projects

For help and guidance with their endeavour, the café owners turned to Dialogue NB and signed Samuel up for the Social Cohesion Lab for Youth, a program that allows young people age 15 to 30 to create projects related to social cohesion. The lab provided Samuel and his mother with support, guidance, supervision and training.

“We took part in the program twice,” says Nathalie. “First in 2020, just before the pandemic, and then again in 2022. We just finished. It was a chance to get some wonderful coaching from our mentor, attend talks and master classes and meet people from the business community. We learned so much.”

Regular, personalized coaching

Every week for about 3 months, Nathalie and Samuel met with their mentor to talk about how the project was going and receive a challenge for the week ahead. “A highlight for me was identifying our target clientele,” recalls Samuel’s mom. “I realized that our clientele had changed since COVID-19. Understanding that allowed us to determine who supports our mission and focus on getting our message across to the right people. It clarified our vision, and the response was phenomenal.”

Funding, networking and community support

The program also helps participants find the funding they need to get their projects up and running. “It opens the door to projects that otherwise would never see the light of day,” says Nathalie. “I found out about all kinds of great projects in the community, and learned a lot. I feel privileged to have been part of this group and I’m happy Dialogue NB is giving young people a voice so they can explore their desires and talents and show what they have to offer.”

Plenty of ideas for the future

The next step for the Café Inclusio is to find a suitable location for a brick-and-mortar coffee shop, which they plan to open in 2023. “We’re in the early stages and haven’t visited anything yet,’’ says Pierre. “The pandemic has slowed everything down,” Suzanne adds, “but we have lots of ideas just waiting to happen. We’ve got so many dreams. And we haven’t put all our cards on the table yet.”

Café Inclusio offers artisanal organic coffee from a local roaster served by a remarkable team of special young people and adults. “Seeing the big smiles and pride on our children’s faces means the world to us,” says Nathalie. “And soon, we’ll be able to offer the same joy to other people with special needs in our community. It’s nice to know we’re changing things a little for them, for their future.”

If you’re developing an activity or belong to an organization that generates tangible benefits for your community, get in touch with us! We’d be happy to consider your project for a future collaboration!

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