Freecycle launched in Tucson, Arizona, back in 2003 as a local email list with the simple premise of helping people unload junk they no longer wanted – furniture, clothing, office supplies, you name it – onto nearby people who did. The system came with one rule: Whatever you’re giving up, you can ask for nothing in return. Everything must be free.
Today, the online network of Freecycle communities has nearly 9 million members around the world all collecting hand-me-downs from each other’s doorsteps. These people have gone even further than “collaborative consumption” or a “sharing economy.” They’ve created a massive gifting economy.
Sociologists have long been intrigued by these kinds of benevolent “generalized exchange communities” (if you’ve ever given blood or participated in a Secret Santa, you’ve been a part of one). What motivates people to participate in them? And what happens to a community when its members willingly give to each other with no expectation of getting anything in return (at least not immediately)?
Read more at The Atlantic Cities. [Image: Lomiere/Flickr]