Worth-y collaboration: Our Goods, Freecycle, and GiftFlow

I’ve spent the last few weeks falling for Trade School, a series of classes anyone in NYC can lead and/or attend in exchange for almost anything. As an instructor, you sign up to teach a course and provide a list of desired barters from students. Students then sign up to attend with their barter of choice. One day I traded cooking lessons for a class called “Knitting for artists and thinkers”; another, a list of five documentary film pitches for a class called “Producing a documentary from scratch.”

Of course, you can always barter on your own, too. Photo via Flickr user Irina Slutsky (Creative Commons)

The model doesn’t just foster collaboration that isn’t based on monetary worth; it also prevents waste by reusing, sharing, and offering goods – both tangible and intangible. A similar creative dynamic of exchange is what drives the nonprofit Freecycle, a grassroots movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their communities. Yet another network of reciprocity is supported by GiftFlow, an online gift community supported by a social network. It’s much like a virtual free store, with the benefit of user profiles that help people build reputations for generosity.

I’m super bummed that the 2011 Trade School season has drawn to a close. But its host organization, Our Goods, makes sure that the community lives on. Anyone can join any of these sites to participate in the regular flow of object, skill and space exchanges. People trade/give everything from dog-walking for acupuncture, to good handwriting for home-brewed beer. And the in-person meetups won’t be limited to just NYC; folks are starting Trade Schools in Milan, Italy; Charlottesville, VA; and soon, London!

I’m smitten with all of these simple, replicable, sustainable concepts, and with the people they attract. Have you heard of other models like these where you live? If so, can I come visit?

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