About Us


We had our very first Make Shift Coffee House in January, 2017. In-person at a library. Republicans and Democrats coming together to talk. We have had 40 of them since. In June 2020 we are running our first Online Make Shift Coffee Houses.

For our In-person Make Shift Coffee Houses we were nationally recognized by winning the American Award for Civic Collaboration. To read people’s comments and learn all about our In-person Make Shift Coffee Houses in libraries, on college campuses, church halls, school cafeterias, and many other places click here.

We are converting our award-winning format to Online Make Shift Coffee Houses. Click here to learn about why we moved online and sign up to attend an Online Make Shift Coffee House. No charge.

Want to facilitate Online Make Shift Coffee Houses and be a Make Shift Leader? Learn more here. 

Who we are


There are many efforts to improve dialogue across differences and improve civic collaboration. In the grand spectrum of all type activities that help us get along with each other, we know our place. We have our niche. We help people understand each other across differences.

Make Shift Coffee House models how to talk across differences and inspires people to try the tools, techniques, and attitudes that they experience at our events. 

Via experiential learning, Make Shift Coffee House builds capacity for people to find common ground and work on solutions in other arenas such as at a Town Meeting or at the State House or on the street. Rather than a formal workshop that trains people, we lead by example with a low barrier to entry.

At a Make Shift Coffee House you actually have conversations with people who think differently than you. This lays the foundation for more conversations and for actually working together on specific issues.

How we're organized


Rather than establish a new charitable nonprofit we have partnered with a fiscal sponsor -- Friends of the Maine State Library -- to receive charitable donations on our behalf. Their board of directors provides fiscal oversight.

Learn all about charitable giving here.

Programmatic advice is provided by the Make Shift Coffee House Advisory Board, co-chaired by the head of the Maine Republican Party and the head of the Maine Democratic party. The board is comprised of 20 people with political, geographic, gender, and age diversity. Board members serve as volunteers.

Administrative functions and services such as managing the online Make Shift Coffee Houses, website, newsletter, social media, etc. are provided by Good Group Decisions, a 2-person consulting company owned by Make Shift Coffee House founder Craig Freshley. Like the fiscal sponsorship arrangement, this partnership also makes good use of already-existing infrastructure to get the work done. Craig and Good Group Decisions have substantially subsidized the Make Shift Coffee House effort to date.

Each In-person Make Shift Coffee House is organized locally by a volunteer host committee. Local host responsibilities include securing a venue, providing free food and coffee, arranging live music, and local promotion. If fees are required for room rental, food, or musicians, such fees are paid by the local host. Local host volunteers also work hard to promote the event locally, set up the room and greet people as they arrive, and do all clean up. In many cases the local host is an institution such as a college or university.

Advisory Board, Founder, and Staff

The Make Shift Coffee House Advisory Board is a diverse group of leaders representing governments, businesses, and nonprofits from urban and rural communities across Maine. The Board is a good mix of liberals and conservatives and is co-chaired by the Chair of Maine's Republican party and the Chair of Maine's Democratic party.

Click here to learn all about the Advisory Board

Make Shift Coffee House was invented by Craig Freshley, facilitator, author, and owner of Good Group Decisions, Inc. Craig currently manages all aspects of Make Shift Coffee House. Craig lives in a cohousing community and plays marginal ukulele with The Common House Band. Learn about Craig here.


Make Shift Coffee House operations are handled by Marlene Flaherty. Marlene also leads Make Shift Coffee Houses. She's from Baileyville, Maine (worth looking up if you don't know where it is). Marlene is a proud AmeriCorps Alum and beach enthusiast.