Sharing is big business. Airbnb, Uber and Zipcar are the big kids on the new block of the 'sharing economy' — allowing those with more space, time or stuff than they need to share with those who don't. For a price. Which sounds more like 'selling' than 'sharing' to us. Thankfully, proper sharing is alive and well in London. From Freecycle to Time Banking, Londoners are using new technology to revive the old fashioned idea of give and take.
Trade without money
Yejide Adeoye is a jeweller and business systems consultant who trades in Echos, a time-based currency. Echo is the 'economy of hours', a network of businesses, charities and individuals who trade in time, not money. Yejide earns one Echo for every hour that she works for people to improve their web security or mailing lists. "As a small business owner, Echo is a great way for me to test new ideas and services, and build my confidence," says Yejide. She has spent her Echos on a photography course and is keen to book a massage from another network member.
Echo is expanding to include a business accelerator programme Echo++. "We are responding to demand for more structured, personalised support for startups in London," explains Alex Gilbert from Echo++.
Budding entrepreneurs pay for the programme in Echos, which they earn by sharing their services in the Echo network. They test new ideas and get support for developing skills and business plans, all without cash.
Old school sharers will recognise the principles of Echo in Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS). LETS have been around since the 1980s, including several active groups across London. The London-wide LETS network connects people to exchange goods as well as service in their local area. Members trade with each other to learn a language, do someone's mending, cook a meal and give away stuff they no longer need.
Time banking has been around for a while as a way to facilitate volunteering in local communities. London time banks are often based around local community organisations, and many are listed with Timebanking UK.
Give, take and lend stuff
Freecycle is another old favourite for London sharers. It's a fairly simple website and list-serv to connect local people with stuff to give away to those who need it. Londoners have freecycled beds, baby gear, gardening equipment and plumbing supplies. It's great for a clear out, and for getting the stuff you need to set up home or start a new project.
Newer versions of Freecycle have appeared, which include feedback functions we know from eBay, Uber and other 'peer-to-peer' sites. Streetbank started in 2010 and allows members to lend things, announce community events and offer their time and skills, as well as the usual give aways.
Share the good life
London living isn't always kind to those who dream of gardening or owning a dog. Conversely, busy London lifestyles can mean our pooches and petunias don't always get the attention they deserve. Sharing land and dogs is the obvious answer.
Borrow My Doggy is a membership scheme that matches dog owners with dog borrowers. Landshare was kicked off by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall to help more people grown their own food, on land that other people own but don't use. Both have active communities in London, sharing simple pleasures without attaching a price tag.