This post is by sustainable community organizer Patricia Lamas. You can read her first post here.
With the MN350 Barter-to-Cash Network project well underway, we’re now beginning to reach out to the community in search of talent, time, and underused belongings here in the Twin Cities. We have set November 30th as the official launch date for the online platform, just in time to give it a publicity jumpstart when Bill McKibben comes to town for his “Do the Math” Tour on the same day. (He’s touring the whole country! Do you have your ticket yet?)
Alongside my work in configuring the Barter-to-Cash Network, I have doing quite a bit of research into similar models. Believe it or not, there are many thriving barter networks right here in the Twin Cities! The Hour Dollars program, for instance, has been operating since 1997, and has over 200 members throughout the entire Twin Cities metro area. Others, like Peace and Community Together, with only twenty-some members, are much smaller and more locally focused. Both of these networks were featured in a great article on Twin Cities barter networks featured in Do It Green! Minnesota. In fact, the local classifieds of any newspaper can serve as a means for barter. It’s everywhere! Craigslist even has a section dedicated entirely to barter ads.
One question that keeps surfacing throughout the development of the MN350 Barter-to-Cash Network is that of maintaining the energy. How do we keep it alive? Unlike the above models, one contribution to the system cannot be exchanged for another. Good intentions aside, is there enough incentive to participate? For the system to work successfully, it must be lively enough that users might seek it first for whatever they need. So how do we keep people donating without constant prodding? If nothing else, one strategy we’re sure of is word of mouth. Have you had any wild successes promoting something in your area just by talking it up? How did you do it? We’re curious to know what strategies might work better than others, so don’t hesitate to comment with your idea!