The community that you want starts at your front door
This Sunday is Australia’s 10th Neighbour Day - its a day to connect or reconnect with our neighbours and remember that our communities can only be as strong as the people who live in them. The catalyst for the first ever Neighbour Day was the sad and lonely death of an elderly Melbourne woman, who passed away in her home in 2001 but was not discovered for two years. Neighbour Day founder, Andrew Heslop, first suggested the day in a Letter to the Editor of The Age after wide spread media coverage of the death, and 10 years on the day continues to grow!
Taking part in Neighbour Day is as simple as saying ‘hello’ to a neighbour in the street, inviting them over for a cuppa or putting on a neighbourhood BBQ. There are plenty of planned activities taking place all around Australia that you can participate in and it is more than likely your local council will have organised an event, so check out their website.
One of the aims of Neighbour Day is to strengthen communities and build better relationships with the people who live around us. This is also one of the aims of Open Shed. With Open Shed Duncan and I hope to encourage communities to reconnect through sharing.
Our communities are incredibly rich with resources, skills and time, but it can be difficult to bring these all together. We think Open Shed can help with this by getting the conversation started and taking some of the friction out of sharing.
What do I mean by this?
It can seem a daunting leap to move from an occasional head nod to your neighbour in the elevator, to knocking on their door and asking whether they have a drill you can borrow for a couple odd jobs. But if your neighbour is on Open Shed you can already tell that they (1) have a drill (2) are open to other people using it. You can simply send them a message and rental requests via the site, rather than worrying what is the best time to knock on their door. AND then you can meet up in person and collect the drill.
When I talk about “friction” I mean the concerns that can arise when we think about sharing our stuff. Common ones for an owner can be what if they break it? Will I ever see it again? While a borrower can be uncertain about reciprocity issues - does this mean next time they ask to borrow something of mine I have to lend it to them? Do I need to buy them a thank you present? Is this worth a 6 pack or a case in the beer economy? Start thinking about all this and it can seem easier just to go and buy it yourself!
Through Open Shed the fuzzy bits of sharing, which can make us a little uncertain about participating, are made clearer. For example, an Owner sets out their expectations of how an item is to returned and what is to be paid if the item is broken (by listing a bond). And a potential borrower can see what rental fee the owner has listed (its probably a lot less than the beer economy dictates anyway!). They request the item for a certain period of time and once that comes to an end the site will remind them to return it.
Sure it may seem “transactional”, but everyone involved has a clear idea of where they stand, so the actual sharing is more likely to take place. And the above concerns don’t need to be discussed, rather the in person exchange time can be put to better use with some neighbourly chit chat!
So this weekend, take some time to think about the stuff that you have that you would be happy to lend to your neighbours - tools, ladders, vacuum cleaners etc - list on Open Shed AND then let your neighbours know!
Duncan and I hope everyone has a fabulous Neighbour Day. We would love to hear if you have anything planned or any stories that arise from the day….