A weekly group that meets to talk about anything and everything
By Hannah Karp
Since Summer 2016, a discussion group named Conversations Over Coffee has met nearly every weekend at a local coffee shop in Poughkeepsie. Originally started by Sam Beal, a local college graduate who also grew up in the area, Conversations Over Coffee began as an idea to bring people together and have face to face conversations about anything that interested the group.
Each week the group selects a new topic and the five regular members spend an hour talking about topics ranging from the colonization of Mars to local environmental efforts to Net Neutrality. Collectively, a set of guidelines developed that focus on active listening, building towards dialogue—not debating—and remaining open-minded.
Researching a topic before it is discussed is highly recommended. Everyone researches in a slightly different way by asking the questions they have and by finding a variety of sources that may be more familiar to them. At the meeting, everyone can share what they learned and if they have any relevant personal experience. The group’s spectrum of opinions and range of research leads to collective learning as they creatively put the pieces together.
Over the past two years the group has taken trips to library events and Repair Cafes. They have invited speakers to educate the group about domestic violence, tabled at local events, and experimented with live streaming meetings. A local high school has sent students to participate at times and bring new perspectives.
Currently, the ages of the members span five decades and their professions include theater director, architect, science researcher, and student. Some members were born outside the US, some have lived in multiple countries, some have children, and some have grandchildren. One member has retired and another has not found her career yet. The diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and interests has resulted in a wide range of topics.
Conversations Over Coffee is a chance to meet people, have a great cup of coffee or tea, and learn. The group is open to new members. All they have to do is show up.