22. What You Got?: Radical Sharing

“When we started meeting early in 1974 after the NBFO first eastern regional conference, we did not have a strategy for organizing, or even a focus.  We just wanted to see what we had.”

What you got! We know you know some fierce powerful dynamic folk. What skills do you have? What skills do they have?  What stuff do you have that you can share? Set up a share where everyone in your chosen community gets a forum to express their knowledge/skills talents/resources. you can do it as often as you want. As many times as you want! See what that sharing opens up for you all collectively. Now that you know your people have certain skills what can ya’ll do together that you can’t do apart? What can you build/grow/create/produce?

Quirky Black Girl and SpiritHouse diaspora dweller Zachari Curtis hosted a book swap in DC.  Here is what she says about it:

Zachari Curtis is a Warrior Daughter

Zachari Curtis is a Warrior Daughter

There was lots of yummy food and a ginormous amount of books which, miraculously, found new homes with fellow readers in the community. Picture it: A place where the books are free and delightful snacks are served while you make your selections. You bring books that have been with you for a while that you really want others to read. People who have read the book you want to read are nearby to talk to you about it if you have questions. And again, the books are free. Sound good? Well it makes a great recession-era party idea.

Many people said they had never been to a book swap, I certainly hadn’t until I hosted one so I just wanted to spread the idea around so maybe this can take root in other cities.

Anyway, go forth and swap.

At a recent Igniting the Kindred event held by Southerners on New Ground and Left Turn Magazine at Charis Bookstore in Atlanta participants created a “tree of dreams” to imagine how they could transform what they had into what they needed through the alchemy of community connection! This is what it looks like!

Sharing is magical.

Sharing is magical.

ATLiens Dreaming of Sustainability

ATLiens Dreaming of Sustainability

Elena Feinstein and Kyla Sweet created a wiki to help share skills and resources in their local community.  Here are Elena’s thoughts:

Elena is a radical librarian!

Elena is a radical librarian!

In the summer of 2008 a total of nine friends, all students or recent graduates of the School of Information and Library Science at UNC Chapel Hill, moved into three houses in the same small Carrboro, North Carolina neighborhood. They enjoyed the opportunities that living so close to each other presented, and began to discuss ways in which they could function as an extended household, from sharing meals to equipment and tools. These women kept hectic schedules, packed with classes, work, and volunteering, but all had nearly constant access to the internet. Some members of the group decided to launch a wiki to facilitate their neighborly interaction. Several other friends and neighbors were invited to participate, and the wiki now has sixteen users.

The wiki has a very simple structure. On the main page, each member has listed his or her “gots” and “wants.” Some of these items are tangible objects to loan, borrow, or give away, such as books on a particular topic or cuttings of plants. Many are offers or requests for the use of equipment, such as sewing machines or musical instruments. But the greatest number of both gots and wants center on skills and knowledge, and this has been the most interesting aspect of the wiki for its users. Some of this knowledge can be shared using the wiki itself, like the DIY health and beauty page or the embedded Google map of free neighborhood resources (think herb patches, bicycle tire pumps, lovely views), for example. Some of the most requested skills, such as lessons in web development and driving cars with manual transmissions, are being organized into informal classes or seminars. Users of the wiki have also delighted in examining each other’s gots lists to discover hidden talents or previously unknown interests, inspiring new friendships and deepening existing ones in the process. The wiki sidebar has served as a convenient place to make specific, time-sensitive requests, to sign up for lessons or interest groups that will communicate in more detail outside of the wiki, and to announce events, most commonly potlucks and crafting sessions.

One early success in the life of the wiki was the planning of a swap day. Held at one of the Carrboro houses, over the course of a weekend afternoon, participants brought clothes, music, household items, and snacks to give away. Because we knew each other, there were many directed swaps, in which the giver had a specific person in mind. While this event was ostensibly about trading material goods, the impulse to trade skills and services rose to the surface as ever. When one woman expressed indecision about whether to take a shirt that was a bit too large, another brought out a sewing machine and gave an impromptu tailoring lesson. The afternoon even ended with a haircut (a very commonly traded service) on the front stoop and plans for further trades of services and lessons.

While the success of these interactions owes much to the geographic and social proximity of the participants, we believe that it is possible to scale some of these principles up to function in larger communities. Even in this small group, we observe the extension of trust and generosity to people who were previously strangers. By employing a network of friend-of-a-friend connections, there is a sense that these people are somehow known and there is a predisposition to believe that their contributions would be valuable. Likewise, I think that, while the use of a wiki or other web tool was important for this particular group, these concepts apply outside of the online environment. The wiki served as an enhanced bulletin board, and a real bulletin board could perform in a similar way. One key to meaningful skill sharing is to identify your community and your goals. What is the community that you are trying to serve? How closely knit or loosely joined is it currently, and how would you like for it to be? Are you organizing a single interaction or something ongoing? What medium or media will be most useful for your community? What has worked well or not well in the past, and how can you learn from this? And always: what is it that inspires you to share and how can you pass along that spirit?

let us know how your skillshare goes…email us pictures and reflections at brokenbeautifulpress@gmail.com and we’ll share your skilltastickness with everyone!


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