Neighbors swap chores in community network

Jake Kapsner

Bike repair in return for walking the neighbor’s dog. Getting chiropractic adjustments for tutoring a child.
These are a few random exchanges made in the Community Barter Network, a free neighborhood coalition of 200 Twin Cities residents that started two years ago with help from a former University student.
The trading system works like this: Participants provide a service and get one credit for each hour worked. These credit hours are stored on a computer database and later used for other services.
And there’s never any haggling about what a service is worth because each offering receives equal credit.
“For the first time in this world, child care becomes equivalent to computer services. It’s great!” said Carole Broad, the program’s creator and coordinator.
To initiate an exchange, most participants call Broad, a 1996 University graduate, at the Pillsbury House.
Lorenzo Lien, a trader in the network, says bartering can be tough to manage when one person handles 200 traders. Officials will release a printed barter directory in May to offer more direct connections between participants.
Quicker links are also made on the network’s Web site. Participants use passwords to connect, and general users can find descriptions of services.
The network is a program of Pillsbury Neighborhood Services, an alliance of Minneapolis community-based centers. With funding from The United Way and various other foundations, 19,397 people were served last year.
The only network of its kind in Minneapolis, Community Barter began in 1996 and quickly grew.
In 1992, the Pillsbury agency sent a group to St. Louis to investigate one of the nation’s leading Time-Dollar based networks.
The bartering program is based upon an exchange system called the Time-Dollar Concept. Patented by legal scholar Edgar S. Cahn, the concept spawned a nonprofit institute in Washington D.C. that connects a national network of organizations.
With the help of neighborhood residents, Broad took over the Pillsbury research file in 1995. He ignited a local barter process that fostered 900 barters among 100 different services in 1997.
Traders gathered Saturday for a Barter Bazaar at the network’s Pillsbury House base in South Minneapolis to showcase tools of their trade.
Members offered a sampling of massage therapy, Web design, music lessons and child care, as barterers actively networked.
Meeting people and making contacts has made the Barter process a plus, said Molly Reinemann.
“I’ve done a ton of barters,” Reinemann said, explaining how she earned credits doing administrative work and used hours for window refinishing, car repair, even career counseling.
“It’s fun because it appeals to my thrifty nature,” she said.
People in the network follow the principle of what comes around goes around.
Retired Fairview-University Medical Center nurse Carol Meade offered child care for Lien’s daughter, while Lien has already painted Meade’s house. The barter network is rarely a direct swap, however.
Some services are in higher demand than others, said Bill Cook, a volunteer advisory committee member. Plumbing, carpentry and roofing are in demand, and Pillsbury House officials hope to soon offer training sessions for these skills, Cook said.
Traders say the exchanges build a sense of community, strengthening neighborhood ties between people like Meade and Lien. Credit hours are donated to elderly and disabled people who can’t participate. Potluck gatherings also encourage an inter-generational atmosphere.
College of Natural Resources student Brent Nolan said he fixes bicycles for barterers once a week on average, and uses credit for computer assistance and Shiatsu massage.
“I can do something I enjoy doing, and in return barter for something I normally wouldn’t do,” Nolan said.