All images in this post (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) by Christiane Désir & Fabian Neuville
Hi Matthias and all,
Organising physical meetups is crucial for people to get to know and understand how to help one another in a community
I went to the event because I made a decision recently to embed myself into the city where I currently live, Brussels. It’s a place where there are a lot of expatriates and if you are not careful you can very easily spend 10 years here without making Belgian friends or really getting to know the place. Also I want to learn Flemish and improve my French. So when a Belgian acquaintance told me he was going to this thing and shared the link to the FB event, I wrote an email to the organisers and invited myself along @guaka joined me too.
When we got to the venue, a nice bar, the organizers gave each one of us a flyer. They also gave us a folded A4 with space to fill in your name, email address, what you need and what you offer… as well as some questions and topics to help get a conversation started.
First they described the political history of time banks and their personal motivations for doing this. They also described how time banks work in general. There was a discussion about the potential legal issues: some participants seemed to know about the topic. With others I got the impression they just saw a flyer and dropped in our of curiosity. A friend who runs an art gallery in a rougher part of New York always prints A4 flyers for his gallery events and puts them up on lamp posts etc in the neighbourhood to encourage a diverse mix of people to show up. It really works and is part of the reason I think his events are cool - you never know who will show up.
The event organizers also showed they eat their own dog food- they used the time bank to share the work of organizing the meetup. For example: The photos in this post were shot by a member of the time bank, and the flyer was contributed by another one.
… they then asked us to pick a person that we didn’t know and help one another to fill in our needs and offers.
I ended up next to a number of people I probably never would have otherwise met. They move in completely different physical, professional and social environments from my own. The part that hit home was how much everyone wanted to help others and how difficult it is to do so. Firstly, a lot of people have a hard time articulating what they can offer help with, because there are so many things that we don’t think of as being valuable. Even though they are huge stumbling blocks for other people.
As an example, one person had written a list of things they needed help with which I couldn’t understand. Like “editor” and “informatics”. I thought he looked cool so I asked him what he means? It turns out he feels he is unable to write. As we talked on he described his passion for building things, especially vertical gardens. And that what he requires is a website… that’s what the writing and informatics was about. Really what he needs is someone to act as a sounding board to help him clarify his ideas, and then articulate them in writing. Maybe also introduce him to wordpress. Which clearly I can help him out with.
Many of these conversations took place, and we all seemed to really get into it. At some point the organizers asked us to get the form filled out, which we did. And then people who brought laptops helped entered the contents into the the site manually. So the onboarding was also social and easy…
This social aspect is very important: meeting so many new people in an environment where you are encouraged to to know one another is great. No one really wanted to leave
So I think this is something we can build on for local events. I liked the simplicity, but I think there needs to be a bit of inspiration…or people introducing what they are working on or would like to learn, and then others helping one another figure out what they need and what they can offer. The other thing I feel is missing is a learning path. Time banks assume everyone is already skilled at something or knows what they can offer. And they are focused on the one-on-one interaction. Edgeryders strength lies in the knowledge transfer and mass collaboration at scale/
Maybe it would make sense to collaborate with the time bank crowd. The software they are using is not sophisticated enough to handle large numbers of exchange so I think this is something we could contribute of value.
In any case I really liked this crowd and will be using the time bank for myself and seeing how I can contribute to it.