In previous posts I talked about the power of local groups as they cooperate for the common good, especially motivated by saving money and improving their communities. Our transformation to a community mindset was dramatic and difficult to imagine given our location (outside of Boston) and makeup (former city folk). I imagine that the traditional route to neighborhood and community cooperation, outlined in the previous post, would be difficult to replicate for most others. Encouraging it is noble, but not particularly effective. Unfortunately, in my brief activism online I've found that resistance to group effort is fairly universal. How do we overcome this resistance? Here's how.
I mentioned before that our collaborative efforts have been aided by software created for us by a friend who volunteered his time and gave us something simple that helped us keep track of every "split", who was involved, and all the details of that split. Each split had a forum where discussions could take place and logistics could be ironed out and group consensus could be reached. Each split had a leader who was ultimately responsible, and most of those involved in our community have been leaders of at least one split. It worked great for us - and we still use it today. But it is not appropriate for world distribution. First of all, it requires an existing organized community, which is a rarity, and second, it is difficult for new individuals and families to become involved - it is not particularly inviting and friendly to newbies who must be shown the ropes by existing members.
A few months ago, my husband suggested to our programmer friend (Steve) that he use our software as the basis for a new web application, open to everybody, where local people can find each other through the application itself. People with similar interests in goods, items, services and other interests - who live near each other - can find each other and organize splits online, and invite others or permit others to join in a similar way. This seems to be the answer: the barriers to community formation are far lower, and the organizational tools are freely available. I am therefore encouraging participation in the new web application as much as I am encouraging the theory and benefits of collaborative effort. I have no financial interest in the site, nor does my husband, nor does anybody in our community. In my opinion, it is simply the single best way to encourage collaborative local activity of any kind.
The above describes the ultimate usage of the application, where thousands of people are using it in every city. Currently it is quite new and undergoing beta testing. In order to use the site at this stage you must invite your local friends, neighbors and co-workers to use the site and organize your splits with it together. Pick something you all want to split, like a durable item or a bulk good, and just do it. In order to make it a universal tool and encourage collaborative activity widely, we must all play our part to grow it in our local areas and spread it to new areas. It's in beta testing mode, so you must also provide Steve feedback. Steve seems very willing to modify it to suit our needs. To request an invitation, go to http://www.splitstuff.com/beta and mention my blog, your city and briefly explain your interest in it. Also, he is limiting beta testing to the US and Canada for now. I have friends in the UK and New Zealand who are anxious to get started - very soon, I'm sure.