Make Shift Coffee House

What It's Like Online

Three things unique about Make Shift Coffee House

  1. Unlike many other online places, Make Shift Coffee House conversations are expertly facilitated to maximize respectful discussion.
  2. Second, we ensure differing opinions. When you sign up we ask about your politics, your geography, and your age. We don’t reveal these things to other participants but we put you with people different from you, on purpose.
  3. Our sole purpose is to help people understand each other. Not persuade. Not agree. Just understand where people are coming from.


The purpose of Online Make Shift Coffee House is to help people understand each other across differences.

It’s not a debate. It’s not about persuading someone to change their mind. It’s about listening to people with different beliefs to understand why someone believes what they believe.

Each Make Shift Coffee House has a topic. Some are broad and some are specific. But no matter the topic we always want to hear WHY you think the way you do about that topic. What about your background, your religion, your education led you to your beliefs?

Each Make Shift Coffee House begins with each person answering a simple question related to the topic. Everyone answers the same question. And then the Leader asks follow up questions and we’re off and running. Lively questions. Lively answers.

There’s no summary at the end or need for agreement. 

Want to become a Make Shift Leader? Learn more here. 


So we can get beyond small talk, we limit conversations to a small group of participants plus the Leader. We want big talk. We want to go deep rather than wide. We do our best to ensure diversity among the participants in each small group. We want to hear from each of them why they believe what they believe.

Yet we want a larger group of people to get the benefits of each small group discussion so we broadcast them on Facebook Live. If you’re not ready to share your own stories and opinions, we give you the chance to hear stories and opinions of others. This will give you new insights about people different from you. And maybe you will join us next time.

We encourage each person to speak from their personal experience and beliefs. We hope you come to the conversation with a willingness to learn and have respectful discourse; not with a desire to persuade or convert others.

Session Guidelines

The Leader explains these guidelines at the start of every Make Shift Coffee House session.

    1. Listen with curiosity
    2. Speak from experience
    3. Demonstrate respect
    4. Help the leader
    5. Enjoy
    6. Act

Bring Make Shift to YOUR Community or Organization

Would you like a Make Shift Coffee House on a topic of your choice? Would you like to recruit or even hand-chose the participants yourself? Would you like to co-brand with us?

We are offering custom-made online Make Shift Coffee Houses for $400 each.

If you are looking to bring respectful conversation to YOUR community or organization, learn more here. Let’s get YOUR Make Shift Coffee House on the schedule.

Why this now

We have held 40 in-person Make Shift Coffee Houses and we won the American Civic Collaboration Award for our efforts. We had them in libraries, on college campuses, in grange halls, church halls, in school cafeterias, and many other places. Our focus was “helping people understand each other’s political views.”

Now it’s time to go truly “makeshift” and have them online. And it’s time to broaden the purpose beyond politics. We want to help people connect with each other around all sorts of topics, not just politics.

Many people are isolated right now and craving connections. People are stuck at home alone and would love an opportunity to connect with others; not just via social media posts but via actual conversations. We can help relieve isolation, improve mental health, and help build new relationships.

At the same time the need for us to understand each other across differences remains strong, perhaps stronger than ever. Our political divides, wealth divides, geographic divides, and generational divides are growing.

Building on our track record and reputation, Make Shift Coffee House adds tremendous value by providing more than just a place for people to commiserate, support, and connect with each other. We provide a place for people to connect and understand each other across these divides.