The space, located on Lisburn Road in Belfast, isn’t just focused on serving up hot beverages and treats. Its agenda is to reduce the rate of re-offending in the city.

Director Roger Warnock describes it as a globally unique idea. Their aim is to create new opportunities for people who have been recently released from prison: the statistic that drives those behind the Thinking Cup is that 60% of children whose parents offend are likely to become offenders themselves.

“They come in here with very little self esteem, not sure what’s going to happen – they’ve had a prison sentence. So when they’re offered a job in a safe environment there’s structure back in their lives.”

The programme lasts for a year, providing staff with skills and training, and helping participants to become more employable and confident in themselves by the end of the 12 months.

Jim, the first employee of the project, was convicted and imprisoned for a robbery at a filling station – now he’s running the Book Reserve. It’s a cosy space upstairs that has been set up as a second hand bookshop. Jim’s role is to grow the book business, which also creates online revenue through Amazon and Ebay. He attributes a turnaround in his life to his experience at The Thinking Cup. 

“It’s helping us progress as people, employees and as a business. We’re able to say – that guy believes in me, I must have it - and take that forward.”

What do you think of this idea? Are you interested in getting involved with the Thinking Cup or Book Reserve? If so, check out their website. And don't forget that you can also share your own ideas or visions of ways to make communities across Northern Ireland fairer places to live.  

Adapted with permission from

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