About us

Common Ground Café and Shared Workspace is a social enterprise pop-up in the Oxford University owned building in Little Clarendon Street, which was formerly Barclays Bank.

Set up by Jake Backus, Managing Director of Empathy Sustainability, VSM at Linacre College Oxford, cycle coach and sustainability champion and Piotr Drabik barista extraordinaire & trainer and coffee machine mechanic with the support of Magnus Baker, bar tender, barista, furniture maker and mountain biker.

Our key positioning is around having somewhere where students and others can study, with free power and wifi and where people can stay as long as they like.  (We encourage you to purchase something to eat or drink in order to help our finances!)

Because we have a relatively low rate of sale, it means that we can really spend some time with each person, chatting and talking to you about you day, what you do etc.  No doubt you’ll be giving us advice on what to do with the place and sharing your ideas!

At the same time, this gives us the opportunity to really fine-tune our coffee preparation (not being rushed) in order to create the “best coffee experience in Oxford”.

We have a positioning, which is one of calm, and at the same time of connectedness between students and the community.  Our values are great coffee, kindness, courtesy, sustainability and creativity.  Our purpose is to support the community and student mental health.

Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) can suffer from information overload, anxiety and a feeling of life going faster than them.  At the same time, mental health amongst students seems to be an increasing problem, or at least increasingly recognised.  Stress and anxiety, social media pressures and expectations can build up.  134 students in the UK committed suicide in 2015.  Our role is to be a calm space just to come and “be” and where people can find further information and support, as well as to support Student Minds and others to put on training classes for mentors and students.

“Less lonely than studying in your room, quieter than a café, and more hipster and connected with society than the college library.”

We increasingly have a community feel at Common Ground, and people can play ping pong, darts, do yoga, performance arts, join a meeting like the Ancient Philosophy group or the Oxford Writers Circle etc.  We connect people at their own speed.

No pressure.  No requirement to do anything.

Jake Backus

Jake Backus

Co-founder & Director

Visiting Senior Member of Linacre College Oxford, Managing Director of Empathy Sustainability working engagement and behaviour change in Sustainability, commercial sustainability, restorative supply chains and future landscapes through rainforest restoration and agroforestry polyculture in Indonesia.  Set up and co-lead of OxAir to measure and map air quality in Oxford from a human, temporal and spatial dimension, in conjunction with Oxford University Estates Sustainability, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council and others.

Happy to talk about plastics and ocean plastics, recycling, mental health, cycling and how you can use our space to support community and society and your own artistic and educational ambitions!

A keen cyclist, youth cycle coach and co-founder of Oxfordshire Youth Cycling (which is free), and a committee member for Cyclox on the Oxford City Cycle Forum.  @whyrwenotgrnr

Piotr Drabik

Piotr Drabik

Co-founder & Director

Barista, barista trainer, coffee-machine mechanic, bike mechanic.