Online sites and apps to help lending and borrowing between neighbours

As part of some work I’m doing in Wrens Nest I’ve been doing a bit of research in to online sites which help neighbours to lend and borrow household items and tools. We’re setting up some Sharing Sheds which link to projects people have started, and we know we can fill shelves and sheds with all sorts of things people don’t use most of the time. We also know that people love getting together to do things like gardening, cooking and crafts, so it makes sense to pool what we’ve got and find ways to share things.

Image with text saying things we could share  - examples of pots & pans, tools, garden equipment, toys & games

If we decide to use an online site or app to help us, some key considerations for me are:

  • That it can be easily used from a mobile phone. So it would need to have apps available. This is because lots of people we’ve been working with tend to access the internet through their phone. There are a few who don’t have smartphones and so use a PC or laptop at home, so a website is still useful. But apps are needed to increase likelihood of take up by the majority.
  • The barriers to entry and use are as low as possible.
  • The site is a UK one, or used extensively in the UK (there are some great, well used sites in the USA but which aren’t being used here).

Drawing on existing knowledge of sites, and using Google to find more I’ve noted below what I found. I looked at:

  1. Ecomodo www.ecomodo.com
  2. StreetBank www.streetbank.com
  3. Peerby www.peerby.com
  4. Streetlife www.streetlife.com

If you have experience of using any of these, or know of others, please do add a comment or email me (lorna@dudleycs.org.uk).

1. Ecomodo 

Launched in April 2010, Ecomodo is “an online service that enables people to lend and borrow each other’s everyday objects, skills and spaces with confidence. They can do this for free, for a fee or for charity. Ecomodo facilitates the transaction to make good returns for all.”

What I love about Ecomodo: you can create lending circles for a neighbourhood, or set it up to encourage people in a school or workplace to lend and borrow things. It is also set up to help lenders that choose to, to raise money for a good cause.

Reasons it’s not what I’m looking for in this instance: there isn’t an app available, plus the sign up doesn’t integrate with Facebook or any other social media and is relatively lengthy. Also while you can opt in to insurance cover for an instance of lending (it’s not blanket), that gets translated in to a hire charge for the borrower.

Aspects I feel could exclude people from using Ecomodo are that

  • you have to say you are at leat 18 years old
  • you have to be a verified PayPal user

2. Streetbank

Streetbank was also launched in 201, by Sam Stephens in West London “as a way of getting his neighbours to share items such as a step ladders, power drills and hedge cutters; things that sit idle in people’s homes and gardens for the majority of the year. His vision was to help people to save money, cut down on waste and reduce their carbon footprints.”  By October 2013 skills and items worth more than £1 million had been listed on the site, which now has 60,000 members worldwide. (source: NESTA)

Things I love about Streetbank:

  • It also encourages neighbours to share their advice and skills, teaching languages, cooking and DIY.
  • You can say if you want to lend items or give them away.
  • You can easily see what’s been offered, and the site tells you how far away the person offering is from your own postcode.
  • You can also easily see requests in your neighbourhood and who your neighbours are using the site.
  • You can change your neighbourhood size in your settings.

Reasons it’s not what I’m looking for in this instance: as with Ecomodo, there isn’t an app available, plus the sign up doesn’t integrate with Facebook or any other social media (though the sign up form is nice and short).

3. Peerby

Peerby was launched in May 2013 and is “the largest online sharing community in the Netherlands. With Peerby you can share and borrow items from your neighbors in a fun and easy way.” Because the site grew rapidly, an English version of the site was quickly launched. I signed up and had a play with the site and app. I got a nice email from Eva welcoming me. By which point I’d tried to verify my account with a phone number, but it was set up to only accept Dutch numbers. I emailed to ask if a roll out in the UK was likely and Eva replied to say that are encouraging Peerby use worldwide and will be fixing the bug in the app around phone numbers. In the meantime it doesn’t stop UK use of the app and sharing.

What I love about Peerby:

  • There are handy categories of things you can borrow including games, gardening, home improvement, baking and cooking and party! These fit with the sorts of sharing we want to catalyse in Wrens Nest.
  • You are encouraged to add a little bit about why you want to borrow an item – apparently requests with stories receive more offers.
  • There’s a nice visual of where people are in your neighbourhood.
  • You can sign up with Facebook.
  • The app is lovely.

Reasons it’s not what I’m looking for in this instance: from what I can tell it seems to be request-driven. So it wouldn’t help us to list what we have in Sharing Sheds.

4. Streetlife

Streetlife is “a free and simple website for neighbours to connect and share news, views, recommendations and resources.”

Things I love about Streetlife: It’s easy to sign up, and you can login with Facebook. While there is an area called ‘give, lend and borrow’, there are also areas for clubs and groups, local conversations, lost and found, classifieds and local politics. There is an app which is really easy to use.

Reasons it’s not what I’m looking for in this instance: I work with the amazing people of Wrens Nest, but I don’t live there. So I can’t help to administer an online side to Sharing Sheds through Streetlife. (I am however a Streetlife member for my own neighbourhood in Sandwell.)


 

In summary, I don’t seem to have found exactly what we need, so we’ll probably start with good old paper and pens, and perhaps some Google Sheets. I’d love to hear from anyone who has thoughts or experiences to share around these sorts of sharing sites.