3 things i've learnt about sharing this year
So we are just coming to the end of our first season as the watersports library. We have been thrilled with how many people have used sharing to access watersports equipment.
- 169 people become members of the library.
- 147 items have either been bought, shared with or donated to the library.
- 885 items have been successfully borrowed and returned.
From kayaks to fishing rods, paddleboards to pizza ovens, we have borrowed and shared items we otherwise wouldn't have had access to and items we might not have been able to afford by ourselves. We have had Hamworthy residents sign up and people from further away. Someone even signed up from Salisbury!
While we have been getting used to taking payments and mending punctures, we have also been trying to listen to our community. Are we good at sharing? Are we helping each other to access the water? Do we see ourselves mainly as consumers or community builders? At the start, we had some hunches about how generous the community can be, but here are three things we have learned about sharing through our lived experience this year. They won't blow your mind, but they bring confidence that good ol' community spirit is alive and well.
1. We really do look after the kit we share.
While we have had numerous punctures and other grazes on the equipment, they have largely been due to normal wear and tear. On the whole people have looked after the equipment. Regardless of income, background, ability, family size, whatever, most of the gear has come back reasonably rinsed and dried ready for the next person. People know that they are being entrusted with something and have had respect for what they borrow.
2. We are willing to share skills, experience and time as well as gear.
I know there is a lot of talk around that we are self centred, isolated and lonely as humans but this year, another side of community has become evident to me. It seems lots of us are willing to roll up our sleeves and share what we have. I have had people offer to help with electrics, maintenance, safety, instructing, offering extra storage, becoming directors, help with fundraising, and very recently even offering to pay for the replacement of a stolen sign. I have seen first hand that in general people are generous and looking for a place to offer skills and abilities. You have been brilliant.
3. Sharing has provided opportunities that were previously unavailable to others.
A couple of months ago, a very generous lady donated some equipment to the library. She gave us a red single kayak, a windSUP, a windsurfing fun board, two windsurf sails and all the accessories. She had kept it this treasure trove sitting in the garden for a while. I wasn't for putting it in the inventory though because I haven't thought through the risks involved with more specialist equipment like this.
Fast forward to last week, one of our members said he was keen to try windsurfing. He had spoken with a windsurfing instructor who had agreed to give him a free lesson if he could find himself the equipment. He asked me if I had any equipment spare and I mentioned the donation I had been given. He borrowed it all and had a brilliant weekend. Yesterday, he gets chatting to me and says that he has struggled to find work for a couple of years even though he is highly qualified. He says
"windsurfing is a sport that I simply wouldn't have been able to afford without access to the kit."
I was struck by the fact that the equipment wasn't even in the inventory. I had just been an accessory for one lady's generosity to connect with someone who could really make use of some equipment. My involvement was almost incidental. If there could be more connections happen like this, how many more families could feel the joy of the water? How many people might come into contact with a lifelong passion? and how many children could build confidence and life skills out on the water? I can't wait for more stories like this
For me, sharing is more important than shopping. It's harder, less glamourous and less convenient, but it's fun and vital for our future together. There are thousands of kayaks, paddleboards, boats, and fishing gear still lying in our garages and lockups. Sharing is a powerful way to reduce our effect on the environment and create stronger community together. If you have any gear or time you can share for water based community, please get in touch! I'd love to hear hundreds more stories like this when the season starts again.