How well does Asheville share?

More than 20 activists and community members crowded together in the cozy library of a local house to create a different kind of Asheville map. The map will be what Tom Llewellyn, co-founder of Asheville-based activism group REAL Cooperative, and head of the group’s new initiative, “Share Asheville,” calls, a “shareable guide” to the city. The goal for the meeting was to highlight all of the existing local resources and organizations that support collaborative communities and sharing-based economies, such as bike-shares, time banks and community spaces.

Llewellyn’s most recent project, the Asheville Tool Library, which is set to open in early 2014, fits right in with the group’s vision of a local sharing economy. Llewellyn also mentioned plans for a seed library later in the year. “People are really hungry for it; it’s a really interesting time,” says Llewellyn. “There are a lot of unemployed people, there are a lot of underemployed people and then there are people that are making minimum wage, so even if they are fully employed, they’re not really making a living wage. When that happens, it’s important to be able to fill the needs of citizens. We have this system of social security and social services and it only goes so far … the idea of the sharing economy — it can provide a certain amount of social safety net that is being dropped by the state.”

The mapmaking project was catalyzed by Shareable, a nonprofit organization that is helping to host Map Jams around the country during October. The mission is to create a network of “shareable cities” across the nation. Shareable provides Map Jam hosts with guides and resources for creating a map, including brainstorming categories like finance, production, services and housing.

Llewellyn acknowledges this idea of promoting shared economy and shared resources among Asheville residents isn’t a new one, and there are others who have initiated similar projects in the past. However, he hopes to make the information he collects more accessible to a larger community — not just the people working directly with REAL Cooperative and similar groups. “Share Asheville … will hopefully end up being a very collaborative thing that’s not just the REAL Cooperative,” says Llewellyn. “The REAL Cooperative is initiating it, but there are a lot of people in town who also have similar ideas, and so hopefully — by its name — we will share it and collaborate on making it a success. A success will be [determined] not by if it’s financially viable or anything like that, but really the success will come if the community chooses to use the resources.”

While the Map Jam meeting centered on what all attendees agreed was the first step in the process —identifying what resources already exist in Asheville — future meetings will focus on how to make that information readily available to the public, along with identifying what services aren’t provided and how those holes can be filled.

Nearly all attendees at the Map Jam on Oct. 23 expressed excitement at being a part of a larger, share-based movement.

“Moving away from the idea of the self-supporting village — that is the driving force behind this need for regenerative systems,” says Llewellyn. “As many options, as many opportunities there are to bring people together, and to collaborate and share, not just resources, but also knowledge and history … that kind of sharing, collaborating and community-supporting is important for regenerating a city, a culture, a region and a nation.”

Readers can learn more about REAL Cooperative (Regenerative Education, Action and Leadership), Share Asheville, and the Asheville Map Jam by visiting More information about Shareable’s Sharing Cities Project can be found on Tom Llewellyn can be reached via email at


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Lea McLellan
Lea McLellan is a freelance writer who likes to write stories about music, art, food, wellness and interesting locals doing interesting things.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.