On Thursday we held an Art Swap in support of our crowdfunding campaign for Canada’s first Library of Things, The Sharing Depot.

There were some who suggested to us that holding a swap as a fundraiser was perhaps not the best way to raise money. But this event was about more than raising money – we wanted to show people that this ‘Library of Things’ is going to be much more than a lending library for camping gear, sports equipment, children’s toys, board games, party supplies, etc. It will also be a community hub where members can hold events of their own in the space, such as swaps, screenings, games nights, etc.

We wanted to emphasize the role that sharing and swapping play in building community.

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We have held several gift swaps and toy swaps over the last few years in our tool library spaces. Our gift swap in December was the most successful yet, with over 3000 swaps completed by several hundred swappers. This is in line with current cultural trends that seem to be moving in this direction: two years ago Emily Bitze started a group on Facebook called Bunz Trading Zone – a place for people to post items they have for trade and things they are in need of – which has ballooned to nearly 40,000 members in the last few months. The only rule of the group – no money allowed.

What is driving people to swap in such large numbers?

Geographic heat map of Bunz Trades taking place throughout Toronto via the Bunz App (doesn't include those taking place through the Facebook group!)

Geographic heat map of Bunz Trades taking place throughout Toronto via the Bunz App (doesn’t include those taking place through the Facebook group!)

There are likely several factors –

1) the money: Hydro’s going up, housing prices are ridiculous and even food is out of control. Millennials as a cohort seem to be particularly hard hit by a dwindling job market, but everyone is feeling frustrated by a monetary system that just doesn’t ever seem to produce enough to go around. Maybe that’s because it’s all going here. So swapping and sharing are definitely ways for people to access what they need without spending a lot of money.

2) the technology that allows us to connect with larger groups of people and communicate messages much more efficiently. Hopping on a Facebook group with 40,000 members and explaining that you have an iPhone to trade someone is much more effective than posting it on Craig’s List/Kijiji or a newspaper. It is this same technology that has made the sharing economy really blossom in the last few years – grabbing an Uber or renting someone’s room has been made possible with apps and smart phones.

3) the environment: people are starting to wake up to the fact that mass unbridled consumption is not so great for the planet. The waste and inefficient use of resources is contributing to climate change and inequality all over the planet. Setting up ways to share and re-distribute the wealth we already have in the community is on the agenda for a growing number of people.

But these three factors don’t explain the driving force behind all these happy swappers. At the heart of it, there is a desire for community and human connection that is perhaps missing from a system that puts the almighty god Profit above everything else – people, environment, sanity. The system that uses money in exchange for goods and services has built walls – and people are now finding ways to turn those walls into bridges.

A Bunz member who was interviewed for a recent Globe and Mail article hit the nail on the head:

“Bunz was like instantly regaining that kind of far-reaching community.”

All kinds of what are widely referred to as ‘Bunz miracles’ have now taken place through the site: Bunz who get flowers delivered to their door when they post about a bad day, a stolen bike that was retrieved by a group of helpful Bunz, locating missing phones, re-uniting missed connections, etc. A couple of Bunz recently made the news for turning their kitchen into a restaurant for fellow Bunz members.

The point is this: there is a driving force in the culture right now to break away from our traditional currency and move toward something more social, more caring. We have experienced this first hand in our tool library spaces when we hold gift swaps, toy swaps, and this most recent art swap. This is why The Sharing Depot will be a physical space in which to hold all kinds of community events – from swaps to gaming nights to screenings – so people can make these kinds of powerful connections. Support the crowd fund campaign in these last few days, get your membership and share the love!

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View all the photos from our Art Swap Fundraiser by clicking here!