09 April 2011

Five Benefits of the Crowd-Sourced City

Reposted in full from Shareable, 24 March 2011

'With the rise of affordable consumer electronics and the explosion of the information age, the gap between professionals and amateurs has narrowed. In nearly every sector, the average Joe may have ideas and talents that are as good -- or better -- than those of the “powers that be.” When professionals give an open call to an undefined crowd, opening up policies and plans to receive their ideas and talents, the concept of “crowd-sourcing” is being utilized. Crowd-sourcing can involve collaboration by the public on any number of tasks, and the term has drawn both criticism and controversy. However, a large representation of professionals have found it very helpful.

When private businesses began to discover the untapped resource of collective intelligence that lay within their customer base and to draw on that intelligence through tech solutions, a new way of doing business was born. Suddenly, through the power of the Internet and mobile applications, companies and organizations could crowd-source everything from customer service to ideation. It was a novel idea -- saving time and money while making the consumer a real and valued part of the business. The concept of crowd-sourcing garnered a significant following, and like all good ideas... it spread.

Forward-thinking communities and cities have begun to adopt the “new way of doing business,” examining areas in which they can invite the participation of citizens. “Open government” developed as a term to describe the process of making civic data accessible and usable to residents. More recently, place-based technologies -- which allow people to geographically reference, track, discuss, and develop ideas about specific locations -- have moved the crowd-sourcing concept beyond mere public participation. Some cities have broken new ground by using these and other technologies to allow for collaboration or “co-design” -- actually working with citizens through the whole development process. This relates to the planning of public spaces, the resolution of local social issues, and much more.

There are significant challenges to implementing this boldly engaging approach. Cities must be committed to fostering a culture of openness and transparency which, let’s face it, doesn’t always come naturally to administration. But the rewards are worth the effort. The engaging city that works to create an environment of “publicness” and reaches to draw a continuous flow of ideas from the entire citizen base will discover:

1. Increased efficiency and lowered costs

Crowd-sourcing has been touted as a cost-reducer, which certainly appeals to policy makers as cities struggle to balance unstable budgets. Governments are turning to citizens for ideas on how to trim or maintain city services instead of spending huge sums on solution development. This works because many citizens are thinkers, artists, accountants, businessmen, and developers -- many with the creativity and ability to build valuable systems that solve civic problems or improve services. These systems are non-traditional; they are web-based and publicly accessible, which is what makes them affordable and valuable to communities.

One example is Trein, an iPhone app developed by a student which brings real-time train-tracking information to mobile devices in the Netherlands. The Dutch Railways have been spending money for years in attempts to create a workable tracking system. A private individual was able to do it on his own! If the Dutch Railways had embraced his work (which they unfortunately did not), they would have saved time and money, gaining a tool to keep citizens up-to-date and informed.

2. Management of community and infrastructure problems

Place-based technology and the Open311 movement, which strives to create an open standard for city services, have been influential in unleashing the power of crowd-sourcing to track community problems. Platforms like SeeClickFix and CitySourced have emerged to offer citizens the chance to report potholes, graffiti, overgrown intersections, and other quality-of-life issues to local authorities. People can use their mobile devices to report issues, leave comments, and view reports that have been made anywhere in the world. Smart cities will embrace such technologies as an organic way to come alongside citizens in managing community and infrastructure issues.

3. Collective resolution of social issues

Gaining a citizen perspective is key for policy makers when developing any type of public solution, but town hall meetings or letters to the editor often fall short of giving adequate representation of what the general public thinks about an issue. In order to combat the pitfalls of these traditional methods, engaging cities are reaching out in new ways, inviting public collaboration in problem-solving.

MindLab, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, is a cross-ministerial unit that helps develop the public sector “from within.” The organization provides neutral spaces (intentionally located apart from ministerial buildings) to allow for free development of ideas and solutions. MindLab projects have provided input on a variety of social issues, from enhancing young people’s understanding of finances to generating a debate around gender equality. Citizens work side-by-side with civil servants, creating and innovating. And the city reaps the benefits.

4. Creation and maintenance of public datasets

Despite all the possibilities inherent in open data, cities are often unable, due to time and money constraints, to develop and maintain the datasets that could provide valuable information for cities and citizens alike. By enlisting the time and talents of residents, communities are finding new ways of collecting data that don’t require manpower from the city, often using geographic information system (GIS) technologies that allow for interactive, real-time mapping of data.

In Los Angeles, the city’s Office of Historic Resources has launched SurveyLA, a comprehensive program to identify important historical resources throughout the city. Citizens are actively invited to participate in the process through surveys and online submission of historical resources or to search for a particular site using the city’s GIS-powered map of historical structures. Similarly, the city of San Francisco is turning residents into urban foresters by instituting collaboration on a map of the trees in the area. The Urban Forest Map allows people to browse or add information about trees in their neighborhoods, recording species, location, trunk diameter, and height. The data will help planners manage existing trees and plan for new ones, while combating tree pests and diseases; over time, a better and healthier urban forest will emerge in San Francisco.

5. Development of people-planned, people-focused spaces

Perhaps the most valuable application of co-design is that of involving the public in long-term projects and community plans. Citizens themselves often hold the most intimate knowledge of the needs in their area. One bold experiment in engaging planning is the neighborhood wiki in the Netherlands, a collaborative site that is drawing on the everyday knowledge and experience of citizens to form long-range plans for the area. For cities wishing to implement an engaging approach throughout community development projects, there are helpful tools for facilitating public involvement. One of these is Engaging Plans, which provides a website package tailored to a specific plan or project. Through the custom site, citizens can participate in online dialogues, map and comment on ideas, and stay up-to-date on developments. Meanwhile, cities collect valuable feedback.

Crowd-sourced cities are strong cities

Collaboration between citizens and governments is an evolving concept; there will be new advances to watch as cities and developers work together toward an engaged public. Challenges of crowd-sourcing - such as culling the meaningless ideas from the valuable ones or motivating the largest segment of the population to participate - continue to be addressed with every new platform that is introduced. Meanwhile, the process of engaging the public continues to grow in value. Cities and the organizations within them will find that if they open their policies, plans, and datasets to include this “new way of doing business,” the end result will be better communities that effectively meet the needs of the people living in them.'

The Human Cost of Comfort

Sourced from Credit Loan, 2009

click on link for full size image

'Can you imagine living without the Internet? Well, the Internet’s not even that old. How about living without your television or telephone?

Today, we take a whole range of human comforts for granted. We also don’t appreciate just how inexpensive most of our creature comforts – cling plastic wrap, anyone? – are.

Here’s a brief rundown of some of the human comforts that we now take for granted and the average cost of these items.

Take toothpaste, for instance. This essential product was invented in the 1700s. But that long-ago toothpaste bears little resemblance to the toothpaste of today. In the 1700s, the product was made from burnt bread or from resin and cinnamon. Today’s toothpaste is made from hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. You can credit Dr. Washington Sheffield with inventing toothpaste in a tube. He accomplished this feat in 1892. The cost of this creature comfort? About $3 to $5 a tube.

Air conditioning is another comfort that we barely think about, unless our central air units suddenly stop working on a 90-degree day. Willis Haviland invented the first modern air conditioning unit in 1902. Haviland sought to control the temperature in a printing plant. Before this, cooling the air was hardly an easy process. How much does this basic human comfort cost us? Just pennies an hour.

Credit Leonardo da Vinci with another of our prized creature comforts: contact lenses. The great inventor proposed the idea of contact lenses as a method of studying the eye. The first useful contacts came on the scene in 1887. These were made of hard glass, and were far from comfortable. Soft contacts made of hydrogel were invented by Czech chemists Otto Wichterle and Drahoslav Lim in 1959. Nearly 40 million people in the United States now wear soft contacts. These contacts cost as little as $10 apiece.

What if you have a headache? You can always reach for the aspirin. But this wasn’t always the case. French chemist Charles Frederic Gerhardt first invented aspirin in 1853. By 1899, Bayer had patented aspirin and was selling it in great quantities. Acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol, came onto the scene in 1956, while ibuprofen showed up in 1969. You can now achieve pain relief for as little as a few cents per headache.

The next time you’re folding laundry, spare Louis Goldenberg a thought. He invented the electric washing machine at the beginning of the 20th Century while working for Ford Motor Company. Spin dryers were added to the mix in the 1930s, forever changing the way we wash and dry our clothes.

We may grow tired of listening to our co-workers, family members and fellow commuters babbling on their cell phones. But think of how difficult life would be without these handy devices. Martin Cooper of Motorola is credited with inventing the first mobile phone in 1973. The FCC eventually approved the first commercial mobile phone in the United States in 1983. Today, of course, these phones are everywhere. You can chat on your mobile phone for as little as $40 a month.

And finally, don’t forget about the amazing flushable toilet. Life truly would be more of a challenge without this wonder. John Harrington developed the precursor to the first flush toilet in 1596. Eventually, we ended up with today’s modern toilets. You can expect to pay about $200 to avoid the indignity of having to take your potty breaks in outhouses.'

08 April 2011

The Carbon Atlas

click on link to original source for interactive map

Sourced from The Guardian, 9 December 2008

'New figures confirm that China has overtaken the US as the largest emitter of CO2. This interactive emissions map shows how the rest of the world compares. Global C02 emissions totalled 29,195m tonnes in 2006 – up 2.4% on 2005'

Escaping from Civilisation Only a Remote Possibility

Travel time to anywhere in the world...

Sourced from the New Scientist, 2 April 2009

'Very little of the world's land can now be thought of as inaccessible, according to a new map of connectedness.

The maps are based on a model which calculated how long it would take to travel to the nearest city of 50,000 or more people by land or water.

The model combines information on terrain and access to road, rail and rivernetworks. It also considers how factors like altitude, steepness of terrain and hold-ups like border crossings slow travel.

Plotted onto a map, the results throw up surprises. First, less than 10% of the world's land is more than 48 hours of ground-based travel from the nearest city.

What's more, many areas considered remote and inaccessible are not as far from civilisation as you might think. In the Amazon, for example, extensive river networks and an increasing number of roads mean that only 20% of the land is more than two days from a city - around the same proportion as Canada's Quebec province.'

How travel time was calculated

Shipping Lanes

Road Networks

The Old American Dream is a Nightmare

Excerpt from Grist, 9 March 2011

'...[James Howard] Kunstler has long warned of the horrendous hangover we're going to wake up with after our "cheap oil fiesta," but he's not gloating as global instability and climate destabilization become the new not-so-normal. Unlike some dystopians, he's motivated less by the desire to say "I told you so" than by the hope that we might still manage to reinvent the American dream on a scale that better suits our current circumstances.

Q. In your 2005 book The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, you gave high-rises low marks, and declared that you're "not optimistic about our big cities." You maintain that towns and small cities are far better equipped to adapt to the post-cheap-oil future.

Now, we've got economist Edward Glaeser talking up skyscrapers in The Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier. David Owen made a similar case with Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability.

Do you find yourself swayed, even a little, by these defenders of urban density?

A. I am completely on board with compact, dense urbanism. It's a mistake, though, to think that's the same as an urbanism of mega-structures - either skyscrapers or landscrapers.

A lot of this misunderstanding derived from David Owen's 2004 New Yorker article, "Green Manhattan," which declared that stacking people up in towers was the ultimate triumph of urban ecology. Owen is a very nice fellow, but this thesis was a crock.

And I'm confident that Ed Glaeser and his acolytes will be disappointed with how it all works out, too. We are entering a capital-scarce, energy-scarce future. The skyscraper is already obsolete and the architects and academic economists remain tragically clueless about it.

Oddly, the main reason we're done with skyscrapers is not because of the electric issues or heating-cooling issues per se, but because they will never be renovated! They are one-generation buildings. We will not have the capital to renovate them - and all buildings eventually require renovation! We likely won't have the fabricated modular materials they require, either - everything from the manufactured sheet-rock to the silicon gaskets and sealers needed to keep the glass curtain walls attached.

You cannot have a city of buildings unavailable for and unsuited for adaptive re-use. This final exuberant generation of skyscrapers built the past few decades - including the mis-named "green" skyscrapers - may be considered the architectural expression of the final cheap oil blow-off.

From now on, we need desperately to tone down our grandiosity. We will discover to our dismay that all these skyscrapers - amazing feats that they might be - are liabilities, not assets. Our cities are going to contract a lot and the process will be painful in terms of lost notional wealth (and probably other ways, too). They have attained a scale that is inconsistent with the economic and energy realities of the future. The optimum building height, we will re-discover, is the number of stories most healthy people can comfortably walk up.

Q. Is "smart growth" the antidote to sprawl, or just a developer's disingenuous oxymoron?

A. "Smart growth" started as a polemical retort to the "dumb" growth of suburban sprawl. It happened that dumb growth was utterly entrenched in all our local land-use laws, and in the sectors that served them - especially the construction trades and our lending practices. The zoning laws mandated a car-dependent outcome, and the builders furnished it, exactly as specified.

By the way, it's important to understand that suburbia was not dreamed up by the devil or any of his agents among us. It just seemed like a good idea in the America of the 20th century. We had the material and capital resources to build this empire of comfort and convenience, so we did. And all this implies a powerful cultural consensus - a broad agreement that this way of living is okay.

Eventually, of course, it became embedded in our national identity as a late incarnation of the American Dream. All well and good - and over! Because our circumstances have changed drastically now. We face the awful predicament of peak oil, and the global contest over the world's remaining resources, and reality is telling us very loudly that we have to live differently - we have to get a new American Dream.

The resistance to this is ferocious, not because Americans are particularly dumb or wicked, but because of the massive investments we have already made in these suburban infrastructures for daily living. We can't accept the scary mandates of reality, or begin the process of letting go.

Smart growth was a strategy undertaken by the New Urbanist reformers to offer an alternative template for land development in America - one based on the traditional walkable neighborhood. The New Urbanists were superbly skilled at drawing up clear graphical codes that might be used to replace the suburban codes around the country. The term "smart" growth was intended to be a selling point - though, unfortunately it often offended the very people it was aimed at by making their own codes look dumb...

The housing bubble bust...represents not just a transient economic fiasco; it is the end of the suburban project per se. We are finished with suburbia. We're stuck with the residue of it. And now we'll see how this all sorts itself out in the face of $100+ per barrel oil.

We will probably come to see a long era of little-to-no-growth. Whatever happens in terms of the human habitat from now on will involve the re-use of stuff that is already there, one way or another.

Personally, I believe the action is going to shift to small towns, small cities, and places that exist in a relationship with a productive agricultural landscape. The fate of suburbia is to become slums, salvage sites, and ruins. Human beings are very good at sorting out materials, and we'll have to do a lot of that. I believe a great deal of all trade in the years ahead will be in material goods already made, re-purposed, as they say, and re-circulated.

...I maintain that any activity organized at the colossal scale will tend to fail in the face of the compound crises of energy, capital, and ecology (climate change). Giant governments, giant universities, giant retail operations - all these things will wobble and fail in the years ahead as reality compels us to downscale and re-localize...

...we are mounting a foolish campaign to sustain the unsustainable, to defend our previous investments in things like suburban living, instead of making new arrangements. That's what we do when we invest half a trillion dollars of "stimulus" capital in building new circumferential highways around our hypertrophied metroplex cities instead of repairing the railroad system.

There is, sadly, much truth in the old saying that people get what they deserve, not what they expect. We are an extremely demoralized nation, unable to construct a coherent consensus about what is happening and what we might do about it, and floundering as a result. Even at the elite environmentalist level, the conversation is ridiculous. For two years in a row, I attended the Aspen Environmental forum, which attracts the cream of the green-and-enviro community. Whenever the subjects of peak oil and our extreme car dependency came up, all they wanted to talk about was running cars by other clever means: electricity, biodiesel, etc. They showed a total lack interest in walkable communities or public transit. They were blind to the fact that their own techno-grandiosity left them in a position that only promoted further car dependency - which is suicidal, of course...

...I suspect that we have left behind the supposed normality of the past decade and have now entered uncharted territory of the long emergency. We have also seen the first stirrings of American unrest in the battles over public employee bargaining rights. I'd maintain that this is only the start of a very rough political era in the USA. The buildup of tensions is fantastic. You have a dissolving middle class watching their futures whirl around the drain, and an obscenely rich Wall Street banking class (abetted by a disgustingly bought-off political class) that has been allowed to evade the rule of law in running a set of ruinous financial rackets, swindles, and frauds, and this alone is, to me, a recipe for civil disorder. I'm amazed that the Hamptons have not yet been torched.'

06 April 2011

Before I Die

This is just gorgeous...the pictures say it all.

Sourced from Candy Chang, April 2011

'Candy Chang is a public installation artist, designer, urban planner, and co-founder of Civic Center who likes to make cities more comfortable for people.

With a lot of support from old and new friends, I turned the side of an abandoned house in my neighborhood into a giant chalkboard where residents can write on the wall and remember what is important to them. Before I Die transforms neglected spaces into constructive ones where we can learn the hopes and aspirations of the people around us.'

nef’s New Economic Model selected as a Semi-Finalist for the 2011 Buckminster Fuller Challenge

click link below for larger image

Reposted in full from the
new economics foundation, 24 March 2011

'The New Economic Model led by James Meadway and Tim Jenkins at leading independent think-tank nef (the new economics foundation) has been named a 2011 Semi-Finalist in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, the prestigious annual design science competition named "Socially-Responsible Design's Highest Award" by Metropolis Magazine. The Challenge awards $100,000 to support the development and implementation of a whole systems-based solution that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems.

nef will build a comprehensive new macro-economic model for the UK predicated on respect for planetary boundaries and global equity of resource use. Principally designed to catalyse the transition to a low carbon, high well-being future economy, the model will be developed through rigorous economic analysis over three years.

“We’re obviously delighted to be named a semi-finalist in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge,” said James Meadway, senior economist at nef and project lead on the New Economic Model. “Our project for a New Economic Model is a perfect synergy with Buckminster Fuller’s own approach to change. As he said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.””

“As the world faces the challenges of climate change and energy depletion to rising inequality and financial instability, the need for a new economic model has never been greater. At nef, we believe that only systemic change will bring about a future of well-being, prosperity and ecological balance. The prize money from BFC will go a long way towards funding both the theoretical work on economic modeling and our public engagement strategy to chart the course for a better future.”

After an initial rigorous vetting process by BFI’s multi-disciplinary review team, which included an in-depth interview, the New Economic Model was chosen from a pool of hundreds of entries from over 35 countries, to be one of 21 Semi-Finalists this year. It will now be featured as a top tier project in BFI’s Idea Index and featured on their website for the remainder of the program cycle.

Semi-finalists will be reviewed and discussed by the 11 distinguished jurors, which includes Valerie Casey, founder of Design Accord; David Orr, writer and professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College; Andrew Zolli, producer of PopTech and Danielle Nierenberg, Project Director of State of World 2011; and Sim Vanderyn, visionary ecological design pioneer.

Finalists will be announced May and the winner, runner up, and honorable mention will be announced at the conferring ceremony in New York in early June.

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge is the premier international competition recognizing initiatives which take a comprehensive, anticipatory, design approach to radically advance human well being and the health of our planet’s ecosystems. The 2011 Semi-finalists are providing workable solutions to some of the world’s most significant challenges including water scarcity, food supply, health, energy consumption and shelter. The Challenge is a program of The Buckminster Fuller Institute which aims to deeply influence the ascendance of a new generation of design-science pioneers who are leading the creation of an abundant and restorative world economy that benefits all humanity.'

The Food Bubble is About to Burst

Reposted in full from the New Scientist, 10 February 2011

'We're fast draining the fresh water resources our farms rely on, warns Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute

What is a food bubble?

That's when food production is inflated through the unsustainable use of water and land. It's the water bubble we need to worry about now. The World Bank says that 15 per cent of Indians (175 million people) are fed by grain produced through overpumping - when water is pumped out of aquifers faster than they can be replenished. In China, the figure could be 130 million.

Has this bubble already burst anywhere?

Saudi Arabia made itself self-sufficient in wheat by using water from a fossil aquifer, which doesn't refill. It has harvested close to 3 million tonnes a year, but in 2008 the Saudi authorities said the aquifer was largely depleted. Next year could be the last harvest. This is extreme, but about half the world's people live in countries with falling water tables. India and China will lose grain production capacity through aquifer depletion. We don't know when or how abruptly the bubble will burst.

With population rising, a fall in grain production would spell big trouble.

Yes. Tonight at the dinner table there will be 219,000 people who weren't there last night. But that's not all: we also have maybe 3 billion people moving up the food chain, consuming more grain-intensive livestock products. Then there is the conversion of grain into ethanol for cars, mainly in the US, where last year 119 million tonnes went to distilleries out of a harvest of just over 400 million tonnes.

What will happen if we carry on as we are now?

Civilisation as we know it can't withstand the stresses of continuing with business as usual. We've got to move, almost on a war footing, to cut carbon emissions, eradicate poverty, stabilise population. We must also restore the economy's natural support systems: forests and aquifers and soils. No civilisation ever survived that kind of destruction; nor will ours. We haven't gone over the edge, but we're much closer than most people think. If the heatwave that hit Moscow in 2010 had been centred on Chicago instead, we would be in deep trouble. The Russians lost 40 per cent of their 100-million-tonne grain crop, but we would have lost 40 per cent of our 400-million-tonne crop - a massive global setback.

How can we avert a disaster like this?

In many countries, irrigation water is free or comes at a low price, so it's treated as an abundant resource. In fact it's scarce and should be priced accordingly. We must also redefine what we mean by "security". The real threats are not some armed superpower but water or food shortages, climate change and the rising number of failed states.

Can individuals make a difference?

The question I get asked most is "What can I do?" People expect me to say change your light bulbs, recycle newspaper, but I say we must restructure the world economy, especially in energy. It's about becoming politically active. If there's a coal-fired power station near you, organise to close it down.'

05 April 2011

The Gen Y Guide to Collaborative Consumption

Many of these links are to US sharing sites, however the concepts are universal - and there may be a local equivalent in your country (eg. Pozible in Australia in lieu of Kickstarter).

Reposted in full from Shareable, 8 March 2011

'When our parents graduated from college, the bachelor’s degree was a coveted badge of honor. It gave applicants instant cred (and usually a larger paycheck) no matter what the job. Now, having a bachelor’s degree does nothing to make an applicant stand out from the masses. And if you’re applying for a job well below your skill level because you’re desperate for a paycheck, that B.S. degree will probably get your carefully crafted resume tossed in the trash.

American youth are slowly realizing that the old system is broken, and no longer holds the answer to all their dreams and desires. We’re discovering that stable, satisfying careers can be found outside the offices and factories around which our parents and grandparents built their lives. We’re acknowledging that the pursuit of bigger, better, and faster things have plunged our country into a time of despair and difficulty. We're convinced that business as usual isn’t an option any longer - but what's the alternative?

Together, we’re learning that instead of waiting for politicians and corporations to fix the system, it’s possible to create a better one of our own, right under their noses. A new way of living, in which access is valued over ownership, experience is valued over material possessions, and "mine" becomes “ours” so everyone's needs are met without waste.

If these ideas get your blood pumping, there’s good news: young people all over the world are already making them a reality. It’s called collaborative consumption, (or the sharing economy) and it’s changing the way we work, play, and interact with each other. It’s fueled by the instant connection and communication of the internet, yet it’s manifesting itself in interesting ways offline too.

If you’re ready to connect with people who can help you save money, pursue your passions, and reduce waste, here's a quick-start guide to your sharing experience:

1. Remove all items from the box and assess

Sit down with yourself (or some friends) and talk about what you’ve got, what you need, and what you could live without. Take stock of what you’d be willing to share, rent, or give away. Write down all the things you really need to be productive/happy/connected. Then, cross out all the things that you want just to have them, and highlight all the things that involve a valuable experience. Now you have a list you can tackle through sharing.

2. Connect to the power source

The collaborative consumption movement empowers people to thrive despite economic climate. Instead of looking to the government or corporations to tell us what we want or create a solution for our problems, we take action to meet our own needs in a creative fashion. This is our power source. Start looking for ways to share at school, on community billboards, by asking friends, or use the resources below:


Roomates.com - A roomate finder and roomates search service which covers thousands of cities nationwide.

How to Start a Housing Co-op - one of the best affordable housing options around, and shared food expenses and cooking can increase your savings.

Guide to Sharing a House - buying a home by yourself may be out of reach in high cost areas, but shared ownership might be the ticket.

Cohousing Directory - Cohousing is homeownership in a neighborhood that shares.

Craigslist - find almost anything including a house or housemate on Craigslist.

Social Food

Eat With Me and Grubly are the Airbnb for meals. Use them to find or host a meal in your neighborhood. Never eat alone!

MamaBake - Large batch group cooking saves time and money, not to mention it's fun!

Local Harvest - A massive directory that helps you find farmers' markets, CSA's, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area.

Neighborhood Fruit - find and offer free fruit to your neighbors with this site and iPhone app.

How to Share a Vegetable Garden

How to Start A Farmers' Market

Host a Baby Food Swap

Personal Finance

Lending Club - An online financial community that brings together creditworthy borrowers and savvy investors so that both can benefit financially.

Zopa - Where people get together to lend and borrow money directly with each other, sidestepping the banks for a better deal.

Prosper - A peer-to-peer lending site that allows people to invest in each other in a way that is financially and socially rewarding.

SmartyPig - social savings bank that enables you to save for specific goals and engage friends and family to contribute.

How To Save Money Through Sharing

Entrepreneurship / Work

Kickstarter - A crowd-funding site powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.

Profounder - A site that makes it easy for your community to contribute financially to your business, so they're literally invested in your success.

BetterMeans - Use open-source decision-making rules, and self-organizing principles to run your real-world projects.

Task Rabbit - A service that enables you to outsource your tasks and deliveries (Boston and San Francisco Bay area only...for now).

Use the coworking wiki, Loosecubes or Liquidspace to find a friendly place to cowork. Coworking is a flexible and community-oriented workspace option for business travelers, independent workers, and entrepreneurs.

How to Find a Job Using Social Media

The Shareable Job Search Search

How to Start a Coworking Space

A Guide to Casual Coworking - Why not cowork anywhere? Here's the definitive guide.

How to Create Your Own Green Job

How to Make A Franchise Shareable


CouchSurfing - An international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals in over 230 countries and territories around the world.

AirBnB - Connects people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay, all over the world.

iStopOver - Homeowners worldwide rent out space in their homes to travelers looking for unique accommodations.

Park at myHouse - Provides affordable and fine-free parking by enabling property-owners to rent out their empty driveways, garages, car parks etc. to drivers needing somewhere to park.

Roomorama - An online marketplace for short term rentals all over the world.

Tripping - Tripping enables you to connect safely with locals who will introduce you to their towns, their cultures, their lives and their friends.

How To Swap Cities - a guide on how to swap offices with someone from another city inspired by SwapYourShop.

Land / Gardening

HyperLocavore - Share yards, seeds, tools and good times growing food!

Shared Earth - Get free access to land and grow what you love, share some of the produce with the land owner and keep the rest.

Tool libraries - check out this handy directory of tool libraries.

Landshare - UK-based service that connects those who have land to share with those who need land for cultivating food.

How to Create Your Own Seed-Lending Library

How to start a Crop Mob - Crop mobs allow you to get and give gardening help.

How to Share a Vegetable Garden


Carsharing directory - find carsharing service providers in your area with this international list.

Zimride, GoLoco, eRideShare - Find a ride or offer a ride on these top ridesharing platforms.

ZipCar - the largest fleet-based carsharing service in the world.

RelayRides, Getaround, and Spride - Rent cars to or from neighbors using the leaders of the peer to peer carsharing movement.

Weeels - order cabs and share rides with this smartphone app.

Avego - Avego matches drivers and riders in real time as they travel.

Taxi2 - Matches travelers who are going from the airport to the same or nearby final destination.

How To Share a Car With A Stranger

How To Be a Carfree Family

Media (Books, Movies, Games, Music)

BookMooch - Lets you give away books you no longer need in exchange for books you really want.

Swap.com - An online swap marketplace for books, movies, music and games.

Goozex - A unique trading platform for video games and movies.

SwapaDVD - Trade DVDs for free.

Paperback Swap - Trade paperback books for free.

SwapaCD - Trade CDs for free.


Check The S.W.A.P. Team, ClothingSwap.com, Swap for Good, and The Swapaholics for clothing swaps near you.

Or host your own swap using this guide, How to Throw a Community Swap Meet.

Use Wear Today Gone Tomorrow or Renttherunway to rent authentic designer clothing for up to 90 percent off retail prices.

Swapstyle.com - An interactive fashion website where members can swap, rather than buy, unlimited designer clothes with each other.

Try Bag Borrow & Steal and Fashionhire - to rent designer handbags and accessories at affordable prices.

And when the time comes to start a family, use ThredUp to swap children's clothing and toys with other parents.

Redistribution Sites (where uneeded stuff finds a loving home)

Freecycle - The original grassroots organization for giving and getting free stuff in your town.

craigslist - The ultimate free classifieds site with categories for free stuff, barters, and shares.

eBay - International online auction that allows you to buy from and sell to other individuals.

ecoSharing - The first sharing website that lets us share what we own with people we know and trust: our friends on facebook.

SpiltStuff - A new site that organizes local communities to buy in bulk and "split" the goods and the cost, thus reducing waste and unnecessary consumerism.

Renting and sharing of general goods where you live

Rentalic, Neighborgoods, and SnapGoods are leading peer to peer rental and sharing marketplaces.


Chegg - Rent expensive textbooks on the cheap.

Better World Books - Save big on used textbooks.

Textbookflix, - A system that lets you rent text books in the same way that you rent movies from Netflix.

Students for Free Culture - An international, chapter-based student organization that promotes the public interest in intellectual property and telecommunications policy.

Bloomsbury College - Crowdsorced learning for the entrepreneurial student.

CafeScribe - A new service that lets you download electronic copies of your textbook, add friends, and share your notes.

Notely - A collection of online tools (including a Facebook app) designed to help busy students organize their hectic lives.

Class Notes - A Facebook app that enables students to share handwritten or printed notes from class.

Free Technology Academy - free college classes on open source technology and standards.

Open Courseware - free college course materials offered by scores of top universities from around the world.

If you don't see the sharing solution you need, check out our huge list of how to share guides on Shareable. Or add resources you know about in comments.

3. Press the power button

Once you discover local opportunities for sharing and collaborating, it’s time to add the power: you. Get involved. Create a profile on sharing/renting/bartering site and actually list some stuff you could trade. Contact the moderator of a local offline sharing group and offer up your goods or services. Collaborative consumption requires a venture into a social world, even if it's only online; you need to get out there.

4. Sync with other devices and enjoy

Ideas like eBay, Netflix, and GameFly are pretty well-known examples of sharing, but it's important to remember that options exist offline as well. Sure, the internet makes it safe for us to share with strangers, but that doesn't mean you should forget about the satisfaction of sharing face-to-face. Coworking brings collaboration into your professional life; a local food co-op brings sharing into your pantry, and skill-sharing communities bring comraderie to your weekend hobbies.

Don't be afraid to let sharing/bartering/collaborating go viral in other areas of your life as well. You'll discover, as Rachel Botsman does in What's Mine is Yours, that "over time, these experiences create a deep shift in consumer mindset. Consumption is no longer an asymmetrical activity of endless acquisition but a dynamic push and pull of giving and collaborating in order to get what you want. Along the way, the acts of collaboration and giving become an end in itself."

GDP No Real Guide to Wealth or Welfare

Reposted in full from The Australian, 31 March 2011

'After the tsunami slammed the Japanese coast, economists rushed to update their forecasts for Japan's GDP. A major investment bank cut its 2011 growth rate from 1.5 per cent to 1.4 per cent, but ratcheted up its 2012 forecast from 2.1 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

If that forecast turns out to be correct, by 2012 Japan's economy will be bigger than it would have been without the disaster. Sure, the tsunami would retard factory output in the short-term owing to power shortages and crippled infrastructure, but vast rebuilding efforts would stimulate demand for machines and workers, wrenching Japan from its economic slump.

Australia's floods and New Zealand's earthquake have prompted similar expectations.

If disasters like these spur the economy, why not have a more systematic program of destruction, without the human cost? One day each year could be set aside for GDP Day. With citizens out of harm's way, local governments could carefully blow up a bridge or flatten a building. Families could break a household appliance.

GDP Day would create jobs, bolster construction, and promote retail sales. Economic benefits seemingly abound.Clearly this is ridiculous. Yet attributing economic silver linings to disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes is no less so.

The confusion about what makes a country prosper arises from our fixation with GDP, which is a misleading metric of economic performance.

GDP is the estimated total value of final expenditures in a given period. It is gross because it takes no account of depreciation of machines and infrastructure. If a country suddenly loses $200 billion worth of public goods in a day or two, as the Japanese painfully have, GDP is not reduced. The loss of wealth is ignored, but the cost of reconstruction boosts GDP.

Moreover, because GDP adds up the values of expenditures without considering their rationale, it encourages belief in the broken window fallacy - that destruction of goods can stimulate commerce.

As Frederic Bastiat pointed out in the mid 19th century, smashed windows might be good news for glaziers, but they are bad news for the window's owner and everyone else. The owner could have spent his money on a new suit, invested the money in his own businesses, or put it in a bank for another business to use. Likewise, businesses in Japan, Australia and New Zealand that benefit from reconstruction are absorbing funds that would have been directed elsewhere.

Followers of GDP are often considered to be hard-headed free-marketeers, derisive of soppy happiness indices and the like. Yet the national accounts, from which GDP is calculated, were developed to facilitate government control of the economy.

The world wars, the growing welfare state and the arrival of Keynesian economics massively expanded the size and scope of government in the early to mid 20th century. Governments craved a statistical dashboard that they believed would enable them to manage and monitor their economies.

The intellectual justification for government intervention in the economy waned in the 1980s, but the system of national accounts has thrived as a source for economic commentators.

Perhaps its popularity should be no surprise. GDP provides a free, quick and simplistic summary of economic performance. Thousands of bureaucrats, academic researchers and economists rely on it to sustain their jobs.

GDP is not only causing smart people to misdiagnose the economic impact of disasters and fanning fallacies. It has become so entrenched as barometer of growth that policy is being judged not by its effect on prosperity but its ability to boost GDP.

Take the Building the Education Revolution . This entailed borrowing about $16bn and building school halls no-one had asked for in a short space of time. A wasteful use of money, but it increased the almighty GDP.'