We need to grant our neighbourhood houses the status they deserve . By most measures, Waterbridge, in the south of Tasmania at Gagebrook, is an extremely successful business.
They work to a familiar business model: raw materials come in, a talented team of people adds value through a variety of streams and processes, and the final products are sold to the customer. Following this model, Waterbridge has become extraordinarily popular and their customer base is growing.
Along the way they’ve developed a work culture that is about the best there is. People love working at Waterbridge. Most of them are volunteers. In today’s HR jargon you’d call Waterbridge an ‘employer of choice’.
But the thing is, Waterbridge isn’t a business in the conventional sense. They’re just a small enterprise based in a neighbourhood house in a battling suburb. And to complicate things further, the products that this particular enterprise offers for sale are sold with the barest of profit margins, as a favour to their customers. By this measure alone, as a business, Waterbridge is barely hanging in there.
At its heart, Waterbridge is about feeding people. The engine room is the kitchen. When I visited, just as the lunch rush was coming to an end, eight or ten volunteers were tidying up, wiping benchtops and sweeping floors. Everyone was laughing about something or other, the banter flying around just as you’d expect in a room full of close buddies doing something they get a kick out of. Today they’d made a curry, spaghetti Bolognese, a zucchini slice, a couple of dozen jars of fruit chutney, and a few other bits and pieces I didn’t quite catch, but judging by the smells it was pretty good tucker.
You can read more about how Waterbridge Food Coop is helping people here: http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/weblog/article/strategy-of-the-commons-/