Café uses coffee as metaphor for money

Basic Income Café
(Pending editorial review)
Niederlande (Eindhoven)

The idea of an unconditional basic income  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! A universal or unconditional basic income (UBI) can differ greatly depending on the intentions and conditions of its implementation. That’s why it’s important to now already discuss what kind of basic income people want for their country.

In this interactive Basic Income Café visitors experience two different basic income economies, using coffee as a way to visualise the flow of money. They are modelled after recent proposals in Switzerland and Finland.

Upon entering the café, visitors not only receive a free ‘cup of basic income’, they also see where it came from and how the ‘coffee and money pot’ fills up again, as well as how they can contribute to the ‘local economy’ by ‘going to work’, grinding coffee beans.

Visitors are provoked to experience the underlying economic models first hand and while interacting with other participants are able to test potential social situations in the basic income scenarios (‘Who works and who doesn’t? Do you care?’). The café also acts as a research tool to find out what kind of basic income people want for their country. And prompt them by asking: ‘What would you work if your income were taken care?’

This project is innovative in its engaging way of making a complex idea experienceable and concrete to discuss. And relevant for the long-term because if the introduction of a UBI is inevitable, it will not change much if the people are not prepared for what it could mean for them. Discussing the conditions of a UBI gives a unique opportunity to redefine our values in terms of what is fair and eventually, whether we trust each other with an unconditional guarantee of income. This café lets us prototype this future culture.

Submitted by

Martina Huynh (21 August 2018)


Swiss designer trained in the Netherlands (Design Academy Eindhoven, Man & Media), specialized in design research and interaction design with a strong conceptual focus. I make interactive installations and multimedia performances exploring relevant social themes of today.

Currently looking into how our relation to technology is shaped by its interfaces.

Project leader

Martina Huynh, Designer and Creator of Basic Income Café

Creative Commons License



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