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Basic Income Café

Basic Income Café is an interactive experience and discussion piece on basic income.

Central to the project is the interactive installation Basic Income Café by Martina Huynh, where coffee is used to visualize the cash flow in two alternative economies. As a visitor, you get a free cup of coffee as your ‘basic income’ while playfully experiencing the tax flow and where your basic income coffee came from. The coffee metaphor is used as an accessible context to provide insight into a complex concept and to enter into conversations about work and income.

“Do you prefer to first work in order to earn your cup of coffee, or first drink a coffee that enables you to work?”

The idea of an unconditional basic income (UBI), is an increasingly prominent topic in progressive economics. This complex idea is often understood in a rather simplistic scenario where every citizen receives a guaranteed monthly income, hopefully enough to live by, with no questions asked. But basic income is not basic income!

In this interactive installation visitors playfully experience two different basic income economies using coffee instead of money. When interacting with other visitors the social dynamics of a basic income scenario can be tested: What happens to our work ethics? Will enough people ‘go to work’ (grind coffee beans)? What surprising situations will arise in this new economy? And what other alternative economies can be imagined?

By creating an environment in which these social and economic futures can be prototyped, the café acts as a conversation and research tool to find out what how our definitions of work and income are shifting today.

According to the Basic Income Earth Network “A basic income (UBI) is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement.”

Website: The Anderen


Basic Income is high enough to cover basic needs.


How would the value of work change? And how would people spend their time and energy?

On this side visitors are first granted a free cup of coffee, giving them enough energy to kickstart the day — and lets them decide how to spend this free ‘boost of energy’. Maybe go ‘work’ and grind some beans to make more coffee for everyone, re-investing in the common good? Or start chatting with some people? Or ‘be lazy’ and not contribute to the café at all? That’s their own choice.

Receiving a basic income would be considered a means to enable work in various (unexpected) forms, sometimes not leading to any defined functions.


Half a basic income — seen as financial support with the expectation that everyone needs to work but less.


What is the importance of work for our identity and societal function?

On this side visitors are given half a cup of coffee for free. Just enough energy to ‘go to work’ and fill up their salary to a full cup. This system is designed with a clear work incentive to make sure everyone contributes to the economy, keeping the coffee system going.

This side is closer to the real economy, where people need to first prove their contribution to a society through work (or the inability thereof) before earning their meal.

Once a week Basic Income Café transforms into a WaardeCafe (ValueCafé), where visitors are invited to step in the shoes of homeless youngsters.

Even in a prosperous country like the Netherlands many young people are facing financial insecurity. In many cases they cannot count on their parents for financial support. Approximately 10’700 young people (18–27 years old) in the Netherlands are without a home.

Talking to these youngsters, something very important comes to surface: what they miss more than money is a sense of trust and appreciation given towards them. The youngsters also mention that they lack the mental peace to work on their future because of the financial stress they are dealing with on a daily basis.

Apart from regular café visitors, we also invite representatives from specific organizations to have a conversation with the youngsters. We think of politicians, healthcare organizations, vocational education, housing corporations, insurers, and so forth. We ask participants to step into the role of the youngsters and to look at the situation from a different perspective. Starting from these experiences, we will discuss new possibilities of an inclusive economy under the guide of social designer Manon van Hoeckel.

Manon continued this project continued throughout 2020 as Het Bouwdepot.

Salone del Mobile, Milan 2018

Dutch Design Week, Eindhoven 2018


Nominated for Swiss Design Awards

Nominated for Swiss Design Awards

We are honoured to announce that Basic Income Café was nominated for the SDA 2020 in the category of Mediation. The café will be on show and active as part of the Swiss Design Awards exhibition in Basel, Switzerland this summer (running parallel to the infamous Art Basel). Being the birthplace of the Swiss Basic Income Referendum, it will be exciting to see how the Swiss think about the current economic system now.

Preliminary Results from the Interviews

Selected quotes and preliminary evaluation of the semi-structured interviews conducted in the café during the 3 months are available to read here.

Video of the café in The Hague

Video of the café in The Hague

Now that the time of Basic Income Café at The Grey Space in the Middle (The Hague, NL) is coming to an end, Floor Hofman made a beautiful short video capturing the essence of the project. Join us on the virtual tour!

Grand Opening of Basic Income Café

September 19, 2019 • 17:00
The Grey Space in the Middle

We will have short presentations by:

• Martina Huynh who will talk about Basic Income Café and the research behind the project. How is the topic of basic income being discussed at the moment?

• Manon van Hoeckel who will share her findings of working with homeless youngsters in The Hague. What does it mean to be financially vulnerable today and how can design contribute to ease conversation between diverse groups of people?

Get a cup of Moyee Coffee!

Get a cup of Moyee Coffee!

Our coffee is sponsored by Moyee Coffee, the world’s first fairchain coffee.

Drift Joins the Same Table

Drift — Research Institute for transition management — is now an official partner of basic income café, advising us on the research on spot.

The best design should work in a real life context

Read the interview on Scandl here.

Nomination for DDA 2019

Nomination for DDA 2019

Basic Income Café was nominated for the Dutch Design Awards 2019 in the category Design Research.

Let’s Recap the Antenna Conference

Let’s Recap the Antenna Conference

Watch here the talk at Design Indaba’s Antenna conference at Dutch Design Week in 2018.