How to develop a local barter community?



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Like every community, our barter economy community needs a way to found and grow it. In our case, we weill start lcoally with a pilot community in Matera, southern Italy, alongside the unMonastery project. But how?

Here are our current ideas for local community development modes, excluding the pure Internet and global ones. Since we have no practical experience with community building in the team, we appreciate all input from networking and communications people which of these ideas are applicable in Southern Italy, and how. This is just an idea collection – we don’t have a plan for Matera yet, but you can help us make a plan :slight_smile:

  1. Starting from existing communities. As pointed out by Matslats from Community Forge when discussing alternative economics with him, it is better to support existing communities by providing them with tools than to start a new one. I would add, it is also more time-efficient. What communities are there in Matera who might want to add barter exchange for mutual help? Candidates are, among others, coworking spaces, weekly agro markets, hackerspaces, community gardens, collective consumption groups, ... .
  2. Integrate with a makerspace. This should be a nice hangout place for the young unemployed. So basically it has to be open a good part of the week, as an open access space where no membership is required (except maybe a fee in barter, which the makerspace may then use to purchase common tools from members etc.). The social dynamics of makerspaces are of course non-transactional for a start, with lots of generous free help, and this should be kept. However, when people need a lot of help with own projects, it's socially unacceptable to ask for that, and here barter exchange has its place. There should be a way how the people and resources in this makerspace can collaborate with and contribute to other projects of the unMonastery, and community projects for the city – see some proposals for that. Accidental business idea generation in this space is "allowed" :-) Some people might be able to earn a living in barter after some time of hacking away on their ideas, and that's exactly what Economy App wants to facilitate.

    Hopefully, unMonastery could provide the physical space for a makerspace. Economy App would provide an initial collection of the most important tools, and people would bring in more tools and materials over time. Oh I just see that Matera has a hackerspace already. And of course there’s also Casa Netural. Nice. No need to duplicate efforts.

  3. Maker parties. Parties are a good way for seeding and growing a community, as proposed by Alberto where he mentions that parties are one of his fav tools of public policy ... :-) The themes would be somehow connected to the "productive fun / enjoyable work" of the barter economy as we envision it. A natural way would be having regular parties when having a makerspace anyway, something where people from Matera and farther off can gather to show their creations. This can be anything from pure fun stuff to artful things and products for daily use, and all can be offered in the barter economy software so that people can wish for them and get their own ones afterwards.
  4. Neighborhood parties or something? What are viable modes to connect with the immediate neighborhood of the unMonastery in the Sassi?
  5. Maker warehouse / brick-and-mortar barter shop. Something that, again, would well integrate with a makerspace: a showroom where (1) makerspace raw materials are for sale in barter, like defective electronics for parts etc., and (2) where people's makerspace creations are permanently shown and can be acquired via network barter, either the very objects or equivalent ones that are made to order. The same concept could be possible in a small publicly accessible brick-and-mortar shop somewhere in the city, or in the unMonastery building itself (then combined with a hangout space). A physical presence might be quite a strong invitation to get to know the network barter concept, and possible to get engaged in it. It's like a "shopping experience", just that you can "only" look around and wish for the products (by scanning a QR code with your smartphone), because they are only for barter, not for sale in money. This might be " a feature, not a bug", as it's ok to just look around, not feeling compelled to buy anything. The products, which might include a good part of unusual and creative handicraftswork like on Etsy, would be interesting to look at and to test out, and would frequently change, so people would hopefully stop by frequently.
  6. Community mapping. It may be that the many people like the barter economy idea, but lack the time or motivation to indeed start with it (similar to how most people know it's good to encrypt your e-mail, and still don't do it because they don't find the time to set it all up). This problem could be fixed if the platform operators or enthusiastic users visit those interested in joining, and set up their account, offers and wishes in half an hour of interviewing them. But what would be a good way (for Southern Italy) to find such interested people who need this last bit of support to join?
  7. Local exchange meetings as community magnet. This is an idea practiced in a direct producer-to-consumer agricultural market in Volos, Greece: they hold a bi-weekly meeting where orders are fulfilled. Doing something similar in a local barter economy would (1) fix the problem of having to trust the seller for delivery, as everyone knows they will both receive and give at the same meeting, (2) solve the delivery logistics very efficiently via a central hub and (3) would provide a nice community event that interested people can join, without committing to the barter economy yet.
  8. The month of barter. (This one is inspired by fellow Edgeryder @sammuirhead's Year of Open Source – look it up, it's very ... inspiring :-) The idea is to persuade a (relatively small, maybe 5-10 people) subgroup of unemployed people in an initial, larger pilot barter community to try living from barter alone for one month. Then evaluate and publish the results – if it works, it would be quite spectacular and could make it into national press. With this added publicity, repeat with larger and larger groups and for longer times. When it works out well and is published well, people might finally switch to living from barter permanently.


Welcome :slight_smile:

[Sam Muirhead], I just saw you’re also here on Edgeryders. So I updated the reference in the text above accordingly :slight_smile: (Remember me? The guy with the EarthOS … we had a brief e-mail exchange some months ago.) Welcome to Edgeryders, and looking forward to speaking to you at the LOTE3 event!



Hi again Matthias - looking forward to seeing you in Matera too! Yeah, fully adopting a barter lifestyle for a while would be great, though convincing the first group of people might be tricky… It certainly makes sense as a project - I often find when discussing barter economies or living without money, people don’t take it very seriously. Then you tell them about someone like [elf Pavlik] - that forces them to ask practical questions and get thinking about it as a real alternative lifestyle rather than just a concept. I also like this idea of parties/events (productive leisure). You could start by growing a small community through a series of weekly barter meetings (I’m sure there are people doing this already) and then see who wants to take it further.


You woke up the bee in me :slight_smile:

On with the brainstorming on local barter community development in Matera…

  1. Starting from existing commnuities. Good point. This brings us to the second step: picking the existing community eager to experiment the Economy App. Not as simple as it seems, in the sense that commnuities are not clearly defined entities (the unemployed, the coworkers, the creative scene). I would bypass this question, keeping in mind that we are looking for people with a strong interest in bartering, ready to play the game: if this groups of people is also united around other common interests (agro markets, ecc.) it is better.

  2. Integrating with a makerspace. “This should be a nice hangout place for the young unemployed”. True. But I have my doubts on the actual feasability of this in a short time: the hacker culture is not exactly flooding the souls of Southern Italy, which still has pockets of conservateurism and resistance to change. Also, I wouldn’t underestimate the effect of the initial scepticism, augmented because invitation to change comes from outsiders. Last but not least, I had understood that unemployed youngsters (let’s keep in mind that in Italy we are young until 45 :slight_smile: were the target: I am not sure that Casa Netural’s community is made of unemployed people facing the impacts of the financial and economic crisis in the region.

This is a crucial question, and an important thing to understand: as all cities, Matera is stratified both spacially and socially. However, I find the ceisure quite abrupt as the people operating in the cultural and creative realm are located in the historical center and the Sassi, and do not seem to be communicating with the rest of the city : the neighbourhoods from the '50s and the ones developed in the '90s. These different souls are all representative of Matera, but I feel that if we want to go for real social innovation, we have to make radical choices and face the people in the neighbourhoods located in the outskirts of Matera (outskirts is meant also metaphorically).Go where bartering is necessary, although unknown and unimaginable.

3 & 4. Parties. Yes, especially with food :slight_smile: But I am not sure that this is the core question right now :slight_smile:

  1. What I find interesting here is the physical presence and the idea of having one in the Sassi and one in another neighbourhood. I suppose one could link the different spaces by assembling different communties, such as unMonastarians - Arduino Matera - group of unemployed. My doubts here are on the time-consuming activities of building the chain, setting up the places, spreading the word. Not impossible, but it takes time.

6, 7 & 8: starting points that convince me the most, although I was wondering on how much they could be assembled: what I mean is, if you go for the option 8, would it make sense to organize bi-weekly meetings?

So I’ve been going with this in my head since your first posts, and now even more since you posted this. Step two is I emptied my head and started to think in materano (as much as I can, as I am an outsider too :). I won’t explain the whole process I went through, but I will go straight to the proposal on a possible way to start seeding the local barter community (in the already existing).

The premice is that I was thinking on getting to the unemployed. More on that when we meet at LOTE: you have to visualize what I am speaking about!

How to spread the word? 3 channels come to my mind:

  • publish short announcement on local newspaper, on the page for "job opportunities"
  • contact the local Centro per l'Impiego (public support to unemployed): I wouldn't put high hopes on this, but it's always good to explore the official route
  • 12 minutes on the local regional TV (TRM): fundamental as it covers all the region and gets to a very diversified audience. On TRM I have a direct link.

This means that one should have promotion material in Italian: the best thing would be infographics as this would explain in a simple and visual way concepts that might sound a bit extravagant to people that have never ever heard of complementary currency and so on.

Basically, I would go for a very simple “month of barter” for 20 unemployed. If this is done in a certain way, I think it is going to attract quite a lot of attention as we are not speaking mt2019, culture, events, social innovation… but proposing a well defined project. How I see it, a lot of work will have to be done before the launch (finding a simple and reassuring way to explain a complex and seemingly distant notion as “digital bartering”), but once it is launched, during the month, one has to follow and observe (right?).

Another option is the Centro per l’Impiego: they probably have a database with all the people looking for jobs. This could be a good base to start community mapping. However I find it important that interest people contact the local community developers than vice versa.

Now, the questions:

  • how much do you want to be linked to the local municipality + matera2019? This is a tricky question. How I see it, on one hand it can give visibility, on the other it can exclude you from a big piece of interest groups.
  • is it realistic to imagine that for LOTE3 we have the basic material in italian (video? animation? infographics? short article)? If so, one could consider organizing a track on this specifically? And/or start exploring the different options to spread the word.
  • the more I think about this, the more it interests me: some of the questions overlap with the ones I have been asking myself for the matchmaking, however this contains some challenges which I would be happy to explore with you: I am considering the option of being your local barter community developer... if you are okay with it :-)
  • there will soon be a big need for communication skills, I think :)

There are still many things to say, and many questions, but I guess this is already enough for the morning! Do you think you could explain concretely how the Economy App would be launched ? Let’s imagine one goes for the “barter month” option, with 20 unemployed. Which are the steps? What is needed as in skills and tools and material?



Would a specific economic sector be considered a community? Such as the craftsmen, for example?


ZeroRelativo - ZR

FYI, ZeroRelativo is the first Italian online barter community, with over 35000 people exchanging one-to-one: it’s not the same principle as the Economy App, but it is the only national platform (to my knowledge) through which collaborative consumption is enabled. It is mainly objects, although there is a section on “performances and time” (subdivided in: lessons & courses, services, consultancy). There is an interesting feature which is the “wish list” each barterer develops: the name says it all :slight_smile:


So wrong…

I should be scolded for falling for slogans without verifying them. ZeroRelativo is NOT the only barter platform in Italy (which would’ve been quite surprising, to say the least). Here is a list of bartering platforms in Italy (should be exhaustive, as aimed at mapping all 130 collaborative consumptions platforms in Italy!).