community swapping website

FROM: Paolo

What NEED does this meet?
Most of us live in a world where our neighbours are strangers.

Most of us have a stack of DVD's/videos/books/computer games/kids toys, getting dusty on our shelves.

My concept is a free website for your local community that helps you meet your real world neighbours, by listings and swapping your dusty read books, exchanging your seen dvds, and trade your played computer games or kids toys.

What is the APPROACH?
Have already developed an advanced swap group engine and website. I want input from you people. The website is of course free:

Check it out and please, let me know what you think and which way I should develop it, and promote it.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Save a fortune on Books/dvds/computer games/kids toys/anything else.

Meet your neighbours! We all know that its good to have friends in your neighbourhood.

What is the COMPETITION?
show me... them?

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
£50k to bring it up to 'broadcast standard' and initiate a PR campagain.

November 19, 2003 in Connecting People, Leisure, Matching System | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


FROM: neil yashinsky

What NEED does this meet?
The need am I serving is enabling every day home and community maintenance. It is always easier with the right tools, think of a community snow blower used by people in the neighborhood vs one person using his snow blower and all his neighbors using their shovels.

Sharing tool enables personal and community productivity and development. It is built off a common practice used by people everyday aronud the world. A recent example is I bought an expensive ergonomically designed shovel that moves snow well while not causing you to hurt your back. I lend it to my neighbors, because as long as they don't misuse it they cannot use it up.

Another example is sharing a broadcast spreader used to spread grass seeds or fertilizer. This can't be used up, and actually everyone's property values will grow up because all the lawns in the area are likely to improve if it becomes easier to maintain a nice lawn.

If my neighbor shared his paint sprayer back to me I could paint my house more easily and might not let the appearance get so run down before paying someone to paint it. The money I save from not needing a painter I might use to fix up my porch.

What is the APPROACH?
It lends itself from napster of course, which showed how sharing can become very popular with music, because it can not be used up. My approach extends that plan to tools that cannot be used up either.

They do wear down and need replacing eventually which is why I might suggest a very minimal usage fee to be collected for purchasing more collective tools to be shared. This might be optional because in most situations people won't mind sharing, in fact they probably would already be sharing if there was something to enable sharing.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
By sharing tools that will make work easier, everyone becomes more productive. That will naturally benefit everyone involved. Common interests and areas such as property values, side walksand interests are improved. It might be the opposite of the tragedy of the commons which said that it should be expected that an unregulated resource will be used in an unsustainable manner. Instead toolster works to share private resources in a more efficient and thus sustainable manner.

What is the COMPETITION?
None that I know of.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
You will need to develop some software, but the functionality is very basic. I would imagine this be either centrally hosted like a yahoo discussion group or run locally by each tool community or group of tool communities.

The hardware required to centrally host would not be too expensive and might even be considered a shared tool for which user pay a minimal fee to maintain or not. The processing power needed to run such a simple application could easily be handled by a pc ala napster

November 15, 2003 in Connecting People, Helping Your Community, Matching System, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Virtual Neighbours Network

FROM: Guy Patterson

What NEED does this meet?
Older people are often isolated, through no fault of their own and without any obvious solution. At the same time, many older people are learning basic computer skills, and these skills enable them to use the Internet. By linking those who have acquired these basic computer skills, and encouraging them to exchange local information on opportunities to get out and about, they will both be less isolated, and more likely to use local facilities. In addition, they will potentially travel outside their own areas to share in facilities on offer elsewhere - a particular benefit will be for older people to meet and explore new places in walking groups - older people taking exercise together is the key to their staying healthy, being intellectually stimulated and avoiding isolation.

What is the APPROACH?
To contact local computer course tutors and arrange to visit those groups of older people (often referred to as 50+ groups) when they are approaching the end of the course and explore the different uses of the Internet. To encourage the people on the course to use email to stay in touch, and to join a Virtual Neighbours Network that offers them access to a database of other people who have attended computer courses and are aged 50+. Explain the benefits of sharing information about local facilities, and in particular the opportunities that exist in the form of walking groups.
The 'distinctive' element is that so often people undertake to learn new things, and are successful in terms of the courses they attend, but are then unable to apply their newly-acquired knowledge and skills in such a way as to extend their knowledge base, increase their skills and go on to apply them in new ways, ways that allow them to actually change their lives. The Virtual Neighbour approach is one that sees the linkages between what people learn and how they apply their learning - in particular it sees the link between IT skills and physical activity - bringing people together who might otherwise remain isolated, and improving their health - particularly in the winter months when people are less inclined to go out - it is envisaged that the walking groups will incorporate learning about environmental issues, discussing the way people can get involved in conservation etc.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Older people who are isolated are particularly vulnerable to depression. The opportunity for older people to make contact by means of the Internet is obvious, but the reality is that people learn the basic skills and remain isolated - the Virtual Neighbours scheme will make it easier for them to see how they can use their IT skills to overcome isolation, and take exercise. It may seem obvious, but it is perfectly feasible that these Virtual Neighbours could as easily reside in Argyle and the Algarve, as in different parts of the same English region.

What is the COMPETITION?
I have not had the opportunity to fully research whether there are other, similar services out there, but i know that those IT projects that exist locally tend to maintain relatively restricted geographical boundaries (Local Authority areas etc). I am also convinced, through research i conducted in the late 1990s into retirement migration in Southern Europe, that such a scheme would quickly acquire an international dimension.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The initial development costs would include the development of a Virtual Neighbours Network (VNN) website. Once this was set up the Network would build itself - in other words the 'one or a million' principle would apply. Costs would be incurred in publicising the Network, but funds could be sought from Local Authorities, Primary Care Trusts etc.

November 13, 2003 in Connecting People, OAPs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

UK version of

FROM: Sarah Walstead

What NEED does this meet?
Retired people are younger than ever - 62 for men and 59 for women, according to the BBC - but as the population of the UK and the EU ages, it's important to get retired people, and their skills, back into the workforce. In addition, the average 60-year-old these days isn't usually ready to potter around the house knitting booties for grandchildren: they're active, vital, and ready to learn new things.

Meanwhile, businesses - small and large - have a need for temporary or part-time employees, and would love to hire the experience and skills of retired people instead off having to take sullen 19-year-olds from temp agencies - but they don't know where to find them. In addition, if an employer only needs someone for 3 days next week to stuff envelopes, it's not cost-effective to post a job on Monster (£250 per job) - but it is on Retired Worker (£25 or less per job).

So we launched Retired Worker ( it's an employment website, sort of like or, except it's been designed especially for retired people who want to work on a temporary or part-time basis - and we made it friendly for these users, who often aren't - yet - expert web surfers.

What is the APPROACH?
Our approach is distinctive simply because nothing like this currently exists, as far as we know.

In terms of our specific approach for this demographic, we've designed Retired Worker with a typical 60+ person in mind, and addressed some of their specific issues. For example, retired people often haven't created a resume in 20 years, and they are apprehensive of doing so. They are also sometimes unfamiiar with 'attaching' documents to emails, as they would have to do to send a resume to a job site. Retired Worker, on the other hand, is a point-and-click system, that allows users to create profiles (selecting various skills, and skill levels) without having to write a resume or attach files.

Employers create their job postings in the same manner, identifying skills and skill levels they need.

The system matches Employees to Employers automatically; Employers get an email telling them who in the Retired Worker database matches their requirements, and then Employers contact Employees directly (using a secure method) to arrange inteviews, work, etc.

The best part is that the cost is much lower than regular job sites!

What are the BENEFITS to people?
For retired people who want to work, the benefits are clear: they don't have to submit a resume or have the sophisticated search skills they need to find an appropriate job on typical employment websites; they don't have to check the site every day because the system will automatically match them to jobs which require their specific skills; and they can participate in a community with other retired people like them. Most importantly, the response we've had from Retired Worker users so far is that they feel 'welcomed' by the site - it's not cluttered, it doesn't require sophisticated computer skills, and we've included details like the ability to large-size text if required.

For businesses, the benefits include more cost-efficient job postings; avoiding email inboxes filled with resumes from people who aren't qualified for the position (our matching system prevents this); quick turnaround (employers know who matches their requirements within 24 hours); and most importantly, access to a wealth of skills and experience they haven't been able to tap into before.

What is the COMPETITION?
We don't think there are any other services like ours out there, especially in the UK.

We think our idea should win because it meets all of's mandates:

1. It is founded on electronic networks (the internet).

2. It has real-world impact beyond using computers. There is increased social capital, bridging between groups, and reduced social exclusion, because we are facilitating the integration of older workers back into the workforce, where they can use and teach their skills and experience with/to younger workers. The government and the EU have predicted a crisis in the workforce in the next 25 years, as the population ages and the younger workforce shrinks - Retired Worker is a way to alleviate this.

3. This has VERY low cost scalability. The database and system is already built and running in Canada. It only has to be adapted to the UK marketplace, and is not restricted to a specific neighbourhood - heck, we could cover the whole EU for only an increased hosting cost.

4. Development community: We think that this project would attract development communities, but more importantly, it would foster a community of its own. We'd like to see Retired Worker have discussion boards, education tools, etc. that would help retired people get back to work and keep working as long as they want to.

5. Retired Worker is very low maintenance. Yes, there are initial requirements such as PR efforts to attract attention to it, but in Canada we've had absolutely no trouble doing this on a 'we did it in our basement' kind of way - we call newspapers and television stations and they have been more than happy to run stories about Retired Worker. The challenges of an aging population are foremost in many people's minds.

6. Things people already do, done better: Well, people have already done employment websites, so I guess you could say we're just doing it better for this demographic.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
It's not difficult to build the idea, since it's already been done.

Logistics, however, is where we would need some help. We'd need to find someone, preferably from within the demographic, to be the 'face' of Retired Worker UK, and there is a certain amount of effort required in terms of making calls, emails, etc. to businesses and the media to get sponsorship and PR for the site, but this has not been difficult in Canada, and judging from the amount of British media coverage of the challenges of an aging population both in the UK and in the EU, we don't think it would be difficult to get Employees, Employers, and advertisers on board. Depending on the revenue model desired, government might also want to be involved.

Cost for this: We think it can be done on a shoestring (as we've done it in Canada), especially if we have the support of an organization like MySociety. Ideally we'd have an office and server in the UK, which could be as little as £500/month, plus a salary for the 'face' of Retired Worker, and possibly some part-time or temporary staffers who could help attract initial attention/PR. So it could probably be successfully launched for £10,000 over 3-6 months - though of course a little more wouldn't hurt, mostly for marketing!

November 13, 2003 in Connecting People, Matching System, Money, OAPs | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Global system for national citizens to write to their elected representatives

FROM: Duane Raymond

What NEED does this meet?
Those of us in the US, UK or Canada may not realise it - but in countries around the world there is a scarcity of systems which enable people to email/fax their elected representatives (i.e. Member of Parliament, congress person, senator, MEP). Enabling people to raise global issues locally would help a wide range of concerns influence national and local politicians. For global issues like climate change and unfair trade, this local influence globally is critical.

This meets the needs of people around the world to have the same online access to their elected representatives as we have in the US, UK or Canada.

What is the APPROACH?
In each country, these systems are currently developed nationally - meaning there is no one place to which anyone can turn to engage their elected representatives. This makes coordinating a global campaign more difficult.

This proposal is for a global web site / system where local campaigners anywhere can look up their elected representatives and fax/email them. It could be used by individual citizens, small dispersed groups or medium/large campaigning groups coordinating a global campaign.

For example an individual in Malaysia could look up their MP, a small campaigning group with contacts in Argentina, Mexico and Ghana could point their supporters to the site to email their MPs or a large NGO with supporters in 100 countries could direct their supporters to the same site so all have the ability to write to their representative locally.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
People anywhere in the world would have equal access to their elected representatives. This would deepen their engagement with democracy and make their representatives more accountable. It would make people's lives easier because they wouldn't have to hunt down and assemble the information for communicating with their elected representatives themselves - they would just be able to get on with communicating with them.

What is the COMPETITION?
Most parliaments around the world have a web site with representative names & contact details. However these are not always easy to find except by experienced web surfers/activists. In the few most developed countries, third party services exist - but these too are not always easy to find.

Having a global service means activists can tell each other where to act regardless of what country they are each in.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
A basic service could probably be established for £50,000. How much extra it takes depends on the chosen solution. If the system needs to get the data from authorities around the world - this will likely cost more. If the system extracts the information from parliamentary web sites - it will cost less but need updating whenever these parliamentary changes are made. Maintaining fax gateways around the world may also incur some ongoing costs.

As the eActivism manager for a large UK NGO I may be able to get some money allocated as it would help them as well.

November 9, 2003 in Connecting People, International, NGO Tools, Political | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Six Degrees of Separation

FROM: Steven M. Croteau

What NEED does this meet?
“It’s who you know”

The aim is to associate people who have a “weak” connection with each other through an Internet database. From the article “The Connectors: Meet the Hyper-networked Nodes Who Secretly Run the World.”, by Jeff Howe, Wired Magazine, November 2003:

“In 1974, a Harvard sociologist made a seemingly unremarkable discovery. It is, in fact, ‘who you know’. His study asked several hundred white-collar workers how they'd landed their jobs. More than half credited a "personal connection." Duh. But then it got interesting: The researcher, Mark Granovetter, dug deeper and discovered that four-fifths of these backdoor hires barely knew their benefactors. As it turns out, close friends are great for road trips, intimate dinners, and the occasional interest-free loan, but they suck for job leads and blind dates - they know the same people you do. In other words, it's not so much who you know, but who you vaguely know. Granovetter called the phenomenon "the strength of weak ties." He had discovered the human node.”

What is the APPROACH?
Create local groups by getting three “weak” acquaintances/friends to agree to input limited information about themselves, such as where they live, work, went to school, etc. into and online database. (Close friends, family, co-workers are not recommended. In fact it’s the person who has a diverse background and worldly experience that short-circuits the network.)

Next, have each of them also get three similar people to do the same, etc. etc. Everyone in the database must agree to op-in and input their information and to be part of the retrieval system. All participants can then search the database for relevant information, but you cannot just search for Say,President Bush, and get his e-mail addres.

Once a connection is made the length of the trail to your goal is revealed, but only the e-mail of the person closest to you will be revealed. Each person can only be connected to another point on the network by traveling through the chain of acquaintances that connect them. That way you will only receive e-mails from people within your local group asking you to make the next connection for them and vice-versa.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
”I didn’t know that my old high school buddy’s wife is the head of H. R. at Pepsi, and that’s where I’m applying for a position!”

“Your English professor’s brother is the Dean at Stanford? I’m trying to get my daughter in there!”

“Your brother-in-law works at Euro-Disney? Can he sell me his employees passes?”

What is the COMPETITION?
None that I know of...?

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Web server space, database software, SQL code,...?

November 7, 2003 in Connecting People | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Mother and Toddlers Information XChange

FROM: Paul Chapman

What NEED does this meet?
Actually this one came from my sister who as a mother of 5 and a teacher has some experience of this.

Basically this would be a kind of Mother's Information Exchange. Now when ever Mothers meet and the various offline groups they are invariable talking about problems with their children.

It would also provide a portal for more official information to mothers regarding there children such as the current controversy over combined immunisations such as MMR.

There also should be a facility for off-line groups to give the place and time of meeting.

What is the APPROACH?
The site essentially will be a forum combined with a news element.

The forum would need some form of database backend but the news site can be done with XML

What are the BENEFITS to people?
There's no second chance with being a parent. You have to get it right first time, so any help would be useful and sometime children choose the most awkward time to have some problems. So being able to pop on the web and check what others have done can be a help.

What is the COMPETITION?
A lot of Groups have their own websites but a search of Google with 'Mother and Toddlers' esssentially gives details of the groups but very little actual information exchange.

There is but again this is one way, anyway it is American. is probably the nearest thing I've found. However again this is American and therefore information with a UK slant is not available.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
This is not a complicated site and none of the technology is complex. It should be possible to reduce the costs of running it by selling advertising.

A database would be needed and licenses for SQL Server are not cheap. (£2,500 per annum IIRC) It does not need the complexity of .Net as there is no need for web services so the whole thing can be implemented with SQL Server, XML, VBScript and Javascript and ASP

November 6, 2003 in Children, Connecting People, Perhaps Government Remit? | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Support Groups

FROM: Damon

What NEED does this meet?
Provide software & webspace to make it simple for new virtual support groups to be created & maintained.

What is the APPROACH?
Something like phpwebsite could be used to provide useful, interactive websites that are easy to maintain.

Some of phpwebsite's features: news, calendar, comments, photoalbums, FAQ, and polls. See

It could also use mailman for providing email discussion forums.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
There are lots of small charities that may like to have a virtual support group but don't have the resources to create & maintain one.

We could make it so that a new support group website could be created with practically a single click.

What is the COMPETITION?
There are lots of support groups out there, e.g. see

But they may not have the range of features that could be made available with phpwebsite or similar tools.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
It may need some programmer time to tailor something like phpwebsite
for the needs of support groups.

The other cost is the bandwidth & sysadmin/maintenance.

November 4, 2003 in Connecting People, User Created Content, Web-In-A-Box Systems | Permalink | Comments (1)

FROM: John Naylor

What NEED does this meet?
One man's junk is another man's treasure. So instead of throwing away those 5 year old stereo speakers, maybe there is someone nearby who would love to take them off your hands for free. We will cut down on waste and give a financial break to those who probably need it the most.

What is the APPROACH?
There is no rocket science here, just a site where the haves can share their old stuff with the have nots. Imagine a free ebay.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
The rich can get rid of what they consider junk and the less rich can save money. We can also cut back slightly on what we send to landfills.

What is the COMPETITION?
I am not sure.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
I built a site last year ( with reusable java components that performs well and is highly scalable. The new site could be built from these components for nothing. All we would need is someone who can pretty up the front end. For about $200 per month (dedicated server) we could be up and running in less than six months.

November 3, 2003 in Connecting People, Giving stuff away, Matching System | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Tipping Point or The Hundredth Monkey .com

FROM: Jim O'Connor

What NEED does this meet?
Many people would like to help their world or community in some way, such as by using public transport instead of driving, or contributing to a charity, or helping in a local scheme, or voting for a certain political party, or protesting against something, BUT, they know that doing so on their own without massive numbers of other people also following the same course of action would be a waste of time and/or effort and/or money.

In this way, even though large numbers of people would like to do something, enough to make a difference, they never do it due to the absence of some mechanism by which they can co-ordinate their activities.

What is the APPROACH?
This site would help by allowing people to pledge to carry out one of the actions above (or something else) IF a certain number of other people do the same. They will enter the pledge, or pick an existing one and specify the threshold number of other people that they would require to also make the same pledge before they would be prepared to actually carry it out.

The system would hold all the pledges, email addresses and thresholds in a standard database and when the threshold was reached for a particular pledge/group of people, it would email all the people to let them know so that they can begin carrying out the action.

The system would need a database, a bit of math and an intelligent way of categorising pledges so that people can find the one they are looking for. Some pledges would be global, some local.

The site could also contain sections with expert analyses outlining how many people would be required to carry out some course of action to make it beneficial. This would allow people to make an intelligent choice of threshold for any particular pledge.

To answer the question, I think the approach is distinctive not only because it could co-ordinate any conceivable beneficial activity but because it will allow everyone to set their own personal threshold level. You could, for example, say I will begin to "recycle household waste in the London area" but only if 2 million other Londoners also do it. You don't then have to begin recycling until 2 million other people also agree to do it - and of course if that many people did agree to do it then the government would be forced to make recycling in London much easier than it is now. So by setting the threhold figure you are basically stipulating a level of inconvenience that you are willing to experience.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
More participation in beneficial activities as people know they are not doing it alone and therefore wasting their time and/or money.

I remember once reading something by Noam Chomsky in which he said that if one person were to make the decision to use public transport instead of driving to work they would put themselves at great inconvenience and therefore lose out, but if everyone were to do it together then the extra investment would allow such an improvement in services that we would all get to work in half the time and in greater comfort. BUT, it needs everyone to do it together for the benefit to arise. This is the type of thing that the site will facilitate. Co-ordinated action. He said it had something to do with Game Theory.

What is the COMPETITION?
I don't know.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The system would need a database, a bit of math and an intelligent way of categorising pledges so that people can find the one they are looking for.

System would be pretty cheap I think. Some bright student could probably knock up a prototype in a couple of days.

Would need an administrator.

November 2, 2003 in Connecting People, Helping Your Community, Matching System, NGO Tools, Pledge Banks, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (3)