Do you feel lucky? If the most difficult decision you face today is whether to opt for soy or skim milk in your daily latte, you probably should. While Adam Robinson, the founder and director of grassroots charity organisation StreetSmart, understands how easy it is to get caught up in one’s everyday, first world quandaries, he also firmly believes it can and should be even easier to make a meaningful difference to the lives of those who need it most. Enter CafeSmart, the annual event that allows coffee drinkers to assist society’s most vulnerable through the habitual act of enjoying their morning cup.
Scheduled for June 7 this year, CafeSmart asks cafes, many of which can receive subsidised beans from supportive suppliers like AllPress, DiBella and 5 Senses, to pledge $1 from every coffee sold on the day. One hundred per cent of funds raised are then distributed to over 400 charities that combat homelessness via specific local projects. Last year, 232 cafes nationwide caffeinated their customers for a cause, collectively raising close to $75,000 in a single day.
Now in its third year, Robinson developed CafeSmart on the back of the overwhelming success of DineSmart, a project he established in 2003 in which diners at partnered restaurants are given the option of adding a $2 donation to their bill over a six-week pre-Christmas period each year.
“In some ways, CafeSmart was borne of the GFC. Restaurants were struggling as people cut back on spending, but coffee culture was really taking hold as it offered a small luxury. I applied the principles of simplicity that worked with DineSmart to respond to a culturally climatic trend,” Robinson explains.
It is this marriage of business acumen and a strong moral compass has seen Robinson, a marketing graduate who has always been self-employed, singlehandedly establish an organisation that has raised a staggering $2,461,000 in only a decade. A self-proclaimed “armchair activist” for much of his life, the UK expatriate was initially propelled to establish StreetSmart after reading a particularly powerful article in The Big Issue that dismantled the nation’s most widely held prejudices about homelessness.
“I was struck by the fact that where many people presume, often subconsciously, that homelessness is somehow caused by careless decision making, in the overwhelming majority of cases it’s the end result of a complex series of issues, illnesses, accidents and abuses suffered by the affected individual. Like most of us I have made some questionable decisions in my life, some of which saw me retreat to the family home to consolidate while I slept on the couch. I was prompted to ask, ‘What do people who aren’t lucky enough to have that safety net do?’”
Robinson’s quest to answer that question led him to confront a number of uncomfortable and often ignored societal inefficiencies in the way causal issues such as domestic violence, mental health, familial breakdown and a lack of affordable housing are widely understood and dealt with. Rather than feel disempowered by the sheer scale of such problems, Robinson set about creating small channels through which the community can begin to address these colossal injustices. By adopting a philosophy that privileges locality (donations are fed back into projects as close to where they are raised as possible) and channelling 100 per cent of profits straight to these local charities, StreetSmart operates with complete transparency and provides donors with an important sense of personal involvement.
“When I explain the kind of problems StreetSmart deals with, people are inherently compelled to help. I’m merely trying to provide a way to harness that goodwill,” Robinson explains.
Ten years on from a personal epiphany about just how charmed a life he has led, Robinson remains committed to creating linkages that allow other lucky people to make a difference in a practical way – in the case of CafeSmart, one cup of coffee at a time. This June 7, doing good is as easy as drinking a coffee.