Speculative Design Brief #11

solution_sketch #11

Neighborhood Virtual Platform

A response to our speculative brief: ‘I can’t get out of the house to get what I need’ by Maíra Prestes Joly, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. 

What is it?

It is a virtual platform created by a neighborhood association (or a group of inhabitants within a location) and fed by its local population, in order to exchange services and make people get to know each other.

How does it work?

Through a virtual form or face-to-face interviews, people interested in participating say what kind of services they would be able to offer within the neighborhood. The services could range from professional ones to daily activities, like taking dogs for a walk, buy products in the supermarket, buying medicine in the pharmacy, babysitting, preparing lunch/dinner for delivery, teaching yoga or a language, preparing homemade bread and marmalade, chatting and getting together, etc. In fact, people would be stimulated to open their minds to say whatever service they would be able to offer. The service would be registered and let available on the virtual platform, with the contact of the service provider and his/her location (it does not need to be the address, just a reference point). With this information, people from the same neighborhood could get in touch with the person that offers an interesting service. The payment could be done in an exchange of services or an arranged price.

How it can be operationalized?

The platform could be operationalized using already existing systems, like greenmap (www.greenmap.org), that can geolocate information using icons that represent it. Also, social networks like Facebook could support it. Actually, a private group on Facebook could be the birth of the platform.

Financially, the platform could start with zero expenses, when started with a free social network. After, with a group of interested people, it could be charged few dollars per month to keep the platform online. People could earn money, offering services through it, or the economic benefit could come indirectly, through the exchange of services.

Benefits?

Everybody participating in this initiative would be a winner. People that started the platform could transform it in a star-up, developing it as a real business. Later, its business model could be “exported“ to other neighborhoods.

People that are offering services could get extra money for their income. Even unemployed people could get advantage of the platform, offering local services, that later could inspire them to open their own business.

People that are “buying“ services could be benefited from services next to their home or even at their houses. This negotiation does not have to involve money, since it can be based on the exchange of services.

Finally, since everybody who is participating is from the same neighborhood, this platform would help to increase the local social cohesion. Knowing neighbors is helpful when you want to collaborate or need help. People could help each other taking a look of each other’s houses against thievery, for example. Also, through social networks people would be able to discuss local issues, what could lead to an increase in local political engagement.

How people that cannot get out of the house could get benefited from the platform?

Not being able to leave home does not mean you are incapable to offer a service or, even more, that you do not need to be served. This last issue, as the most obvious, could be solved through the contact with the services from the neighborhood: people unable to leave the house would be able to know the services that are available locally, asking them for delivery at their houses. Besides, since the idea is to exchange any kind of service you are able to, these people could buy or get in exchange for services that are related to “making company” and “chatting“, which could be done in person or through Skype.

Last, but not least, people that are unable to leave home, can also offer services, like teaching (a language, for example) in person or through Skype. This could help not only financially, but also in terms of social relations, which are important for a happier life.

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