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The Tiffin Project – Two Month Review

Since we launched The Tiffin Project on September 1st, to an admittedly modest crowd at The Noodle Box on Homer St. – we have been astounded at the response that we’ve received. It looks like we’ve got a lot of work to do!

Thank you very much, if you’re one of the many who’ve reached out to us – to get involved, to start a Tiffin Project in your home town or city, or to give us recognition for what we’ve done as well as what we endeavour to do. And, if you’ve chosen to directly support us by buying one of our containers – thank you so much for supporting us while we’re still a small organization in a small space in time.

We have had communications from Bristol and London in the UK. From our southern neighbours, we have been contacted in great numbers – by people in New York, Miami, San Francisco, Portland – and many places in between. From inside our own Canadian borders, folks from Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec have contacted us. Victoria, for the record – is in the works. If you’re one of the many in on Vancouver Island who’ve spoken up – don’t worry; give us a few months! Someone from Brazil contacted us today, and we’ve had interest from elsewhere in Europe and other parts of the English-speaking world. The response really has been overwhelming.

From your questions, comments, and concerns, we’ve deduced that there are 3 important questions ahead for us. If you didn’t reach out independently – here’s where you can catch up on the conversation.

Firstly, we are having to re-evaluate our position as an incorporated Non-Profit Organization. At first we were picturing a modest community movement based around having our humble pie and eating it too – covering our ability to generate small amounts of money for a good culture shift, and covering what we saw in the beginning as our operating costs. Since then, the interest we’ve had from around the globe has caused us to ask ourselves a question – could we influence greater change if we change our model? We ask this openly simply because we understand that much of our support has been gained as a Non-Profit model – which comes with certain attached preconceptions.

Various advisors in the social venture community have told us to manage the money that we are managing through an incorporated business model (corporation)(“corporation”), and that we should leave the giving portion of the model to an appended charity. A new organizational structure under this rough description has recently been created in British Columbia, Canada. This proposed model could allow for easier adoption in other cities, and it would allow for us to grow in that direction of expansion more comfortably. Obviously we would stay true to our original visions of what The Tiffin Project could be, but we would have to put on a different hat. In the beginning, we were committed to being as grassroots as possible. Now that we’re at a point where we’re deciding who and what we want to be – with what we know that we want to do – we’re presented with a clear fork in our road.

The second question is simple: how quickly can we move The Tiffin Project to a town or city near you? Now, that’s a tough one.

Here in Vancouver, with the help of Vancity Credit Union (a.k.a. Vancity Bank, or just “Vancity” outside of colloquial references to the city itself), we’ve been able to create The Tiffin Project with a very small amount of investment. We cannot promise that other cities are ready for what the project represents, and we can’t assume that organizers in other cities will have the same networks that our founder and board of directors have access to. The short answer is this – The Tiffin Project took a lot of work to create. We’ll be very careful in our next steps – where we go to next, and how we will establish ourselves, location by location.

 

Thirdly, we have had many people contact us, who already have comparable containers, and who already do what The Tiffin Project is promoting. We saw this coming. As of right now, this is a campaign solely for owners of our containers. We have nothing against your containers; it’s not personal.  Please understand the following.

When a Tiffin Project member comes into a restaurant with their container – they do the work in bringing it in. Then, however, the restaurant does the rest – especially the restaurant’s kitchen workers. Basically, the restaurants involved in The Tiffin Project do just as much work to make the process functional as its supporters do. As of right now, all of the project’s partner restaurants have been trained to accommodate (to accept, give back, and discount meals to do with project members) The Tiffin Project’s containers – and The Tiffin Project’s containers only. They were chosen, the way they are, because they are easy to deal with. Allowing anyone to bring in any container would open up complications in the process for the restaurant side of all interactions. This, in our early stages, would be too much trouble.

Imagine for a second – how you like the routine of your job. Let’s say that you’re a graphic designer, and you work on a Mac. Now, how would you like it if your boss came to you and told you that you had to work on a PC for a few fifteen minute periods throughout the day, but that he expected your performance not to suffer at all. Pretend that it was just a simple client request. You could do it, without that much trouble – but, what if it were busy, or you had other things on the go that had you distracted. The Tiffin Project is slowly training not only restaurant lovers, but restaurant workers – to change. This change is going to be slow at first.

Internally, with The Tiffin Project’s board of directors, several ideas – like a membership card for people who already have non-disposable containers that they like to use for takeout food in lieu of disposable packaging – have come about. Once our restaurant partners are ready to train all of their staff to accommodate all shapes, sizes, and designs of containers – The Tiffin Project will announce that with pleasure.  Until then – please be patient!

The Tiffin Project welcomes all feedback. What’s better than feedback though? We need helping hands. We’ve taken it this far – who wants to help?

 

That’s all for today. The next post, this week, will be about new restaurant relationships that Tiffin Project members can look forward to in the near future!

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