Post-disaster situations can open up opportunities for small businesses, boosting the local economy and enabling disaster-affected communities to support themselves. Caroline Baxter Tresise reflects on the role of coffee shops in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami.
The role of entrepreneurs in post-disaster community recovery should be supported and encouraged as entrepreneurs occupy key positions when assessing and planning for rapidly changing conditions, often through the placing of those affected at the centre of the design process. This process is commonly referred to as ‘human-centred design’, which when applied to aid-work, can promote urban resilience and assist with disaster risk-reduction.
The launch of Kupi Culture
In a region susceptible to natural disasters, entrepreneurs Vida Asrina and Joanne Taylor launched Kupi Culture in 2013, a social enterprise using local cafe culture to foster urban entrepreneurship, resilience and youth civic engagement in the Indonesian coastal city, Banda Aceh. The city was one of the most affected by the tragic 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. More than 60 percent of the city’s infrastructure was destroyed; tens of thousands died and entire communities were swept away. The impact and devastation rippled throughout the region.
However, as Banda Aceh slowly recovered, an interesting social transition occurred. Where previously women had not participated in local civil society, they were suddenly able to participate in urban life. Women took on new roles as nurses, carers and assistants to foreign aid workers and it became acceptable for women to meet and conduct business in coffee shops, places that had previously been reserved for men.
It also helped to revive a key site for social engagement that had been lost for a number of generations: the humble coffee shop. Banda Aceh once had a thriving café society which was introduced by the Ottomans in the 19th Century, as the political situation changed in the 1960s and 70s these coffee shops gradually closed down. After the Tsunami hundreds of coffee shops started to open their doors, largely to cater to the international agencies and NGOs who had come to the city to support the disaster reconstruction.
Supporting entrepreneurial start-ups
Kupi Culture used this resurgent interest in the coffee shop scene to support entrepreneurial start-ups inside a local coffee shop. The project aims to engage and empower youth to build sustainable futures in their city through design thinking and design implementation. With a focus on urban and economic resilience, the organisation has blossomed into a regional hub for young professionals, with a focus on addressing and determining creative solutions for social, economic and urban needs in Banda Aceh.
Vida and Joanne held an idea creation workshop with local entrepreneurs and youth groups during which they asked young people how they would like to improve their city, and what business ideas should be developed to support these aims. They subsequently invited local businesses as well as local and international universities to help to critique and discuss business ideas with Aceh’s young people, helping to generate concrete and viable enterprises.
Watch Vida talk about her project in this Ted Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUpmlU7_Wws