GiftFlow: When Collaborative Consumption Isn't Enough, Try Collaborative Production GiftFlow Wants to Build Local Economies Around Sharing GiftFlow: When Collaborative Consumption Isn't Enough, Try Collaborative Production GiftFlow Wants to Build Local Economies Around Sharing
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GiftFlow: When Collaborative Consumption Isn't Enough, Try Collaborative Production GiftFlow Wants to Build Local Economies Around Sharing

by Alex Goldmark

May 14, 2011

You could offer your food waste to a large compost project, or your labor to someone else's creation. "Some of the more interesting gifts posted on the site right now," Schoenburg says, "are 'a custom mashup' of two songs you pick, or an 'extremely dedicated conversation,'" presumably to help another GiftFlow user brainstorm or work through some puzzle. It oozes earnestness, but its founders think it can work on a local level. "We don’t imagine people will be shipping a lot." Instead, neighbors will offer up tools, labor, or recycled materials for nearby projects and products.

GiftFlow's Jarus Singh redirecting usable goods from the trash heap at Yale.

Like any startup, the success will stem from how dedicated and creative the founders are. The GiftFlow trio is showing some real savvy so far. They've decided to stay nonprofit, because their mission is to reduce waste and build community, and they're leveraging that clarity of mission for extra freebies. "Our biggest hope is that our operating costs will be covered with gifts," says Schoenburg. “You can go to GiftFlow’s profile now and it has all the things we need: like a web developer and free web hosting.” Scoff at the idealism if you want, but right now they have a 5,000 square-foot storefront free for 90 days thanks to the City of New Haven. They will use it to operate a free store, giving away all those soft goods tossed out on Yale move out day. 

There's also a bike collective forming that's the best example yet of collaborative production. Local police donate abandoned bikes that are left on bike racks, or parts of them that are still there, to GiftFlow. Then cycle mechanics mix and match the parts to build new bikes. If they make two, they can keep one. The second gets sold cheap to someone who doesn't want to get their hands dirty with gear grease. That money goes to paying for the parts that can't be salvaged. And all together abandoned bike bits go from being eyesores attached to city railings, to usable, affordable sustainable transportation.

"It's a whole business model based on totally free inputs," Schoenburg says. "Collaborative consumption is only half the game, and it really short sells what we can do as a community to meet our needs." 

There are about 600 people signed up now across the country. The site will launch a fully functioning beta in July with a local marketing push in New Haven to build that city as the first true test community. Sign up here and let us know what you think.

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GiftFlow: When Collaborative Consumption Isn't Enough, Try Collaborative Production GiftFlow Wants to Build Local Economies Around Sharing