Transition Finsbury Park: tool-share ideas, considerations and questions

  • Tool-sharing provides opportunities to create community, bringing together neighbours to exchange ideas and skills, as well as tools. It promotes many co-operative core values: self-help, self-responsibility, equality and solidarity and helps people realise they can build, create and contribute to their own communities.
  • In the US, where tool-share schemes are well established, schemes can range from small, informal arrangements, whereby two or three people club together to buy a hedge-trimmer, to very large operations involving hundreds of volunteers. They can include tools for carpentry, landscaping, wood-working and car repair, which in turn can be housed in people’s homes, in a workshop, in community centres or even in warehouses.
  • Smaller share schemes should avoid intricate tools that require a lot of maintenance, or else try to involve someone who is skilled in tool repairs and maintenance. Power tools can also potentially prove more dangerous, making insurance costs a problem for smaller groups without a track record of safety. Some programs require users to sign liability waivers for power tools.
  • Funding across schemes varies. Some schemes charge membership fees (e.g. £40 / year) to help maintain and buy tools. Others collect maintenance fees, pay-as-you-go charges or fees for the late return of tools. Some rely solely on grants.
  • Record-keeping is an important aspect of any tool-share scheme. At a minimum, this requires the development of a list of tools and swapping contact information.

Things for Transition FP to think about…

  • Where will the tools come from? Possible options include donations of unwanted tools, existing tools, new tools bought with funding and freecycle.
  • Storage and hiring. Should tools be kept in a central location? If so, where? If not, how will a central database operate? If tools are in people’s homes, how will people borrow them? One option would be an internet based system that allowed people to log-on to hire out tools and to contact other members of the scheme.
  • Funding. What funding would be needed and where might this come from? How could the scheme be sustained following any initial seed-funding? (e.g. membership fees)
  • Tool maintenance. Who will be responsible for looking after tools?

Suggested next steps

  • Establish small group of people interested in developing these ideas further
  • Identify local needs – would local residents use a scheme? If so, what sort of scheme?
  • Research funding options and other existing schemes for more ideas
  • Agree firm timeline for development. Start small! See below for suggested step-by-step instructions for setting up a very basic scheme (using Googledoc as database)