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 shareasheville.org. More information about Shareable’s Sharing Cities Project can be found on Shareable.net. Tom Llewellyn can be reached via email at Tom@realcooperative.org.