Over the past year and a half Shareable has launched head first into nurturing the growth of an organic grassroots movement in communities around the globe. After listening to organizers and groups working at the local level, there was a unified call for two resources that were needed but didn’t exist: a community of practice to learn from experiments by peers and seed funding for new initiatives to take root and flourish in underrepresented parts of the US and the world.
We heeded the call and sought funding to provide seed grants to 20 projects in 2013 (30 projects in 2014) and began developing the framework for the Sharing Cities Network (more than 1,300 individuals in over 45 cities around the world). It has been incredible to work with so many enthusiastic sharing activists and to support the groundswell of projects all of which are passionate about real economic and cultural transformation.
It's clear that collective, grassroots leadership is necessary for the success and sustainability of an international network. Many communities have stepped up their work, finding new energy and inspiration from being connected to a larger movement. Local organizers have emerged organically; most of them volunteering their time and self-funding their projects. However, many sharing activists in lower wealth communities have expressed that they don't have the financial resources to devote substantial energy to this important work and have requested training, mentoring, and to be more connected with their peers.
Because we feel it's crucial for our movement to not leave behind communities with less access to wealth, we've launched the Sharing Cities Fellowship Program – a pilot program consisting of seven fellows from cities around the US who are actively working to create sharing cities through uniquely local forms in lower wealth and communities of color. These activists receive a very modest stipend to support their city-wide organizing work a few hours a week for 6 months, in addition to peer support and project mentoring. They will also have the opportunity to share what they are learning on Shareable and through the Sharing Cities Network to help other organizers who are trying to create sharing city initiatives as well.
Over the course of the pilot program, we will take feedback to improve and better support local organizers. We are currently seeking additional funding to continue the program after the pilot. Moving forward, we hope to open up the process, and depending on funding, support more fellows for longer periods of time. All towards the goal of developing a strong grassroots network of sharing organizers from diverse communities around the world. There are so many incredibly committed and talented organizers we know are doing important work and we wish we could find a way to support all of them to continue.
Please check out these amazing activists and what they are doing to change the world in their own communities. Click on their names for more details.
Here are the 2014 Sharing Cities Fellowship Program Participants:
Gretchen Zalkind of New Orleans is a coordinator of the NOLA TimeBank and is involved at a national level with communications and software development for TimeBanks USA. She is a native of Portland, Oregon, was a long time resident at the Brewery, in Los Angeles, California (one of the county's largest artists communities) and served on the steering committee of the Echo Park Timebank. Additionally, when living in Los Angeles she was a proponent of public transportation as a docent for the MTA, writing art tour scripts and leading tours of the subway. Current projects include: Fix Mix (community repair shop), Swap & Shop (clothing and housewares exchange), Community Kitchen Cooking Club (healthy prepared food available for time credit) and the Freret Neighborhood Tool Library.
Halima Cassells of Detroit defines her life's work as movement into alignment with her highest purpose which is service to her community/family through a contribution of time, knowledge, love, and creative talents which are ever-evolving. She is dedicated to her continual personal positive transformation which she knows is the beginning of her community. Current projects include: The Free Market Swap: a recurring swap meet (interactive storytelling/dance experience), #detroitwater: creating media that uplifts the voice of the people of Detroit and sharing with our networks to garner solidarity, Detroit People's Food Co-op, and building solidarity and sharing networks by assisting coordination of national conferences convening in Detroit this year including Roots and Remedies and Re-imagining Work.
Janine Christiano of the Los Angeles area is co-founder of: Arroyo Seco Network of Time Banks, California Federation of Time Banks, Arroyo Sustainable Economies Community Organization and the ASECO Community Revolving Loan Fund. She helped pioneer community-based strategies in 13 LA neighborhoods that support the vastly under-served population of the financially distressed, combat poverty and isolation by teaching people to leverage existing resources through relationship- building, and empower people to become involved in advocacy work and creative problem-solving within their own neighborhoods. Using timebanking as the main form of leverage, they create maximum impact through minimal infrastructure by harnessing the power of community social capital.
Kali Akuno of Jackson, MS was a lead organizer of the nationally recognized Jackson Rising conference and was the Coordinator of Special Projects and External Funding for the late mayor Chokwe Lumumba in Jackson, MS. He is the author of the organizing handbook Let Your Motto Be Resistance and wrote the preface to the report Operation Ghetto Storm. He is an organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, former co-director of the US Human Rights Network, and served as executive director of the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund based in New Orleans, LA. Currently Kali is devoting his time to Cooperation Jackson, which is building a solidarity economy in Jackson, Mississippi, anchored by a network of cooperatives and other democratically self-managed enterprises.
M. Andre Primus of Rochester, NY is founder and director of RocShare, an organization that serves to encourage the growth of the sharing economy in Rochester, New York. RocShare helps to connect people, businesses and community groups to promote and participate together in making Rochester a sharing town. They also organize events as a way of instigating and advertising the adoption of sharing systems. He is a native Rochesterian who has studied urban planning, geography, and dance, and has a habit of nerding out over a long list of subjects. Among other community projects, RocShare is currently developing a sharing guide for faith-based organizations and groups.
Nene Igietseme of Boston is a youth worker/organizer who just finished a Masters in Urban Planning at MIT and is a trainer with Center for Story-Based Strategy (formerly Smart Meme). Nene is interested in the intersection of “new/alternative” economic development, culture change/dominant narrative shift, and youth/multigenerational organizing. She has been working with the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative to build a political/popular education “economic democracy” curriculum for membership based organizations to use to mobilize their membership to build new economic institutions and is the former Leadership Development Director for Project HIP-HOP, a youth social justice arts organization. Nene hopes to eventually support young people in developing new economic and political institutions such as worker cooperatives, credit unions, participatory budgeting, etc., as part of a community economic development strategy.
Syra Smith of Oakland is an engaged artist, activist, community organizer, sharing cultivator and mindfulness educator, interested in deep ecology and manifesting a culture where we can turn toward fearless abundance and generosity. Syra is founder and curator for Oakland’s Dana Cafe, a monthly gathering offering transformational teachings at no cost to participants. In 2014, she launched and served as lead organizer for Oakland’s East Bay ShareFest. This decentralized open collaboration highlighted a collective calendar of events spanning the month of May and brought together 30 sharing projects and organizations in solidarity. Syra is currently developing a food sharing and harvesting collective in the East Oakland neighborhood where she lives as well as a localized online resource portal to further support pathways to sharing for her neighbors and the city of Oakland.