April 4, 2018

Participatory event maps Sydney’s sharing economy

Story and photos by Russ Grayson, March 2018

The Sharing Map geolocates an alternative, underground but not hidden economy in which monetary exchange plays a minor part.

Sharing food is a sure way to get people to share information, and there was plenty of both at The Sharing Map Jam at Camperdown Commons, home to Pocket City Farm in Sydney’s Inner West.

As around 80 participants made their way to the Commons to gather in the shelter of the pavilion, they were greeted with tables of food prepared by Acre, the restaurant at the Commons. They were there to create Sydney’s first map of the sharing economy… the authentic sharing economy that is, not the corporatised version of Air BnB and Uber, which are business as usual reborn as platform capitalism.

A World Cafe process started the evening. Categories like transport, food and others were assigned to different tables and people spent ten minutes listing the sharing economy initiatives, like the Inner West Tool Library, the free courses at the Permaculture Interpretive Garden and others they knew of before moving on to the next table. And after that, more food.

By now the well fed crowd were ready to participate in one of the two sharing games the organisers prepared… one for organisations, the other for individuals. And after that… yet more food, this time of the dessert type.

As people talked and ate, a small crew were uploading the first of the sharing economy initiatives listed earlier in the evening. Seemingly suddenly, The Sharing Map of Sydney came into existence.

There was something empowering in compiling the information then watching it go live online immediately afterwards…

What was outstanding

Several things are notable about this event.

First, it was successful. Its smooth running was a credit to the mainly female crew who organised it. There was something empowering in compiling the information then watching it go live online immediately afterwards.

Second, the food, which I might have mentioned before. It was plentiful, timely for those attending straight after their day’s work, tasty and filling. Never underestimate food to drive an event to success.

Third, the process. World Cafe is participatory by its very nature. Add the sharing games and you have an evening that engaged all and gave it a pace that led to a successful launch of The Sharing Map website. No tedious sitting around meeting-style.

Fourth, the sharing map is only for free or minimal cost initiatives. Not businesses. It is essentially a community-focussed platform to map organisations and other entities that exchange goods and services as part of an informal community exchange system.

Fifth, The Sharing Map process was the type of participatory event that would qualify as social design in permaculture although permaculture was not represented there.

A City of Sydney grant made the event, and the food, possible. Over coming weeks, three additional, similar events were planned for other locales in the City of Sydney local government area. After that, the team wants to take the mapping process to other suburbs.

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