Sharing and The Sharing economy have been thriving lately and also changing the way that people go about their lives in recent years. People have been sharing their rooms with strangers, car pooling and even sharing power tools. However, there are few that have opened up to sharing in the way that Nijmegen has. Nijmegen is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, at more than 2,000 years old. The city has recently become one of the first sharing cities in the world according to Cat Johnson of Shareable. A Dutch consultant, Nils Roemen has led the way on this process. As Johnson explains:
“Through hands-on, peer to peer organising, the local sharing community in Nijmegen has grown into a large network of people who share not only their knowledge, but their stuff, their time, their workspace – whatever they have excess of.”
All of this is based on the assumption that there is plenty enough of everything to go around, and that it needs to be spread out more evenly. In helping Nijmegen to become a sharing city Roemen asked the question, what if people stop asking for money and start asking instead for what they need. This has led to great transformation in the city and the development of various projects that may be described as “no money sharing projects.”
No Money Sharing Projects
One such project was Nijmegen Dialogue. This project was aimed at helping communities that do not normally come into contact with one another to build bridges. This included groups like Muslims and Jews and the rich and the poor. People could contribute to the project but the one thing they were not allowed to contribute was money. Many people helped out, including big businesses such as a bank and a supermarket chain that printed marketing for the effort on their receipts.
Another project undertaken has been “7 Days of Inspiration”. The goal of this project was to be Netherlands-wide with a view to upgrading the Netherlands in seven days in the areas of education, transportation, sustainability, work and food. Over the course of just one week 2,000 people got involved. These people worked on 137 different projects. Some of these projects were a night restaurant that ran for one night that used food that would otherwise have been thrown out, and a retirement project which created a sort of real-life Facebook where retirement home residents had their photographs hung on a wall and then wool was used to link people up that wanted to meet.
One of the things that came out of the 7 Days of Inspiration was the development of a space for coworking in Nijmegen. The local housing department were approached to see if they would be able to help out with this, and the group was given a building that was supposed to be demolished. The project led to the building being furnished and painted, without the use of any money. This was achieved by Roemen himself going to people’s houses and asking if they had any left over paint or a piece of wood that they were not using. This allowed the building to get decorated and a table was also built from the wood that was donated. People were allowed to use the workspace if they were working on projects to try and make the world or city better.
Then the sharing city went one step further and managed to build a house using no money. It felt like a crazy idea, even to those working on the project, but it was achieved. A list was created for what was needed to be able to achieve it and a website was created that allowed people to indicate what they would be able to offer to the project. The project gained momentum and entrepreneurs even donated items like solar panels and a toilet. Even the local government pitched in, providing land that could be built on, for loan. The project was a huge success. However, right before the house was due to be opened someone burned it down.
Still, this set back did not stop the momentum, and the sharing city has held “Sharing Week” and “Sharing Days”. This is helping to gain greater awareness of the movement and getting more people involved. Nijmegen is an inspiration to other cities around the world. It shows what can be achieved when people are really willing to share.
If you would like to know more about sharing cities please check the following video on the sharing cities network , a network that connects cities and towns interested in The Sharing Economy:
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.