Leading by Example: Lessons Learned from the Eugene CommunityShare Workshop

by Anna Awimbo

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Are you looking for an inexpensive spot where you can take your children to have fun in all kinds of weather? Most parents and caregivers would answer this question with a resounding yes!

If you live in Oregon, you’re in luck. Amy Potthast of Swapnplay in Portland, Oregon knows just the spot. Five years ago, Swapnplay—a sharing-based playspace—was opened with a single bag of toys and a laundry basket of clothes. Today, it’s a thriving, affordable spot where parents can take their children and watch them stay occupied on their own while the parents make dinner in the shared kitchen or just enjoy a little free time.

Amy shared her Swapnplay experience, both as a member and part of the organization’s board, in June at a New Dream-led CommunityShare Workshop in Eugene, Oregon. Swapnplay offers more than a convenient play space. It also exists to ease the burden on low- and moderate-income North Portland families, promote environmental and economic sustainability through community sharing, provide educational resources to children, parents, and families, and and partner with other organizations to create and implement large-scale community projects.

The City of Eugene invited New Dream to facilitate the CommunityShare Workshop as a way to engage community leaders from across Eugene in discussions about increasing their stake as key players in the sharing economy. Participants spent the day networking and expanding their knowledge of sharing opportunities. Also present as resource experts were representatives from PDX Skillshare and Eugene Toolbox, who spoke about their efforts to increase community resilience and provide the tools and knowledge to revitalize local neighborhoods.

PDX Skillshare, managed by Portland resident Noah Heller, is described as a day of free classes taught and organized by neighbors. It’s a way to learn new skills, pick up a hobby, and meet other people in a fun and informal setting. The more than 50 classes offered will range from urban garden soil safety and cooking, to blogging for business. The full schedule of classes for this July 12 event impressive and reflects the wealth of talent available in the community.

The Eugene Toolbox is the brainchild of  Anya Dobrowolski and Beth Sweeney, two local women in the city who say they are following their passion to establish a network of community tool libraries. Their hope is that the tool libraries, coupled with member workshops, will provide residents with the skills and resources they need to play an active role in revitalizing their neighborhoods. 

The toolbox concept fits in well with the City of Eugene’s overall strategic plan and goals. Anya and Beth have already received support from city agencies and staff. The Eugene Toolbox hopes to “open its doors” in the first half of 2015.

These are just a few examples of the incredible innovation taking place in Oregon as part of the Sharing Economy. Check out the City of Eugene sharing webpage and the Portland Be Resourceful site for more information.