SHARING IS ABOUT maximizing the use of products, services and ideas in order to minimize overall consumption by a community. This principle has a surprising number of applications--people can and do share just about anything. It's also nothing new; sharing books, movies, equipment and hand-me-downs has been common among Westerners for decades, and many cultures practice the age-old act of sharing as a way of life, not an option.
Shared items and services can be rented, loaned for free or swapped for others. AJ's cross-Canada sharing directory offers a sampling of the country's myriad options, with a focus on established organizations and online services. What follows is hardly exhaustive and many informal sharing practices aren't covered here. We encourage our readers to contribute more essential opportunities and organizations at ajmag.ca/share.
Credit unions offer credit cards, online banking, mortgages, investment options and more control over how money is invested than banks do. These memberowned cooperatives operate as democratic, independent branches. There are more than 330 credit unions in Canada, with more than 1,700 locations, which its national trade association lists at cucentral.ca. Do your research though--many credit unions offer "ethical investing," but there are no standardized criteria.
Microfinance offers small loans to entrepreneurs who don't qualify for credit at a bank. Kiva connects the global network of microfinance institutions and borrowers in 73 countries with lenders all over the world, allowing them to help alleviate poverty in increments of $25 or more (kiva.org). "Canada's first online peer-to-peer microlending" service has established chapters in Victoria and Okanagan, BC(communitymicrolending.ca), and Ottawa has a Community Loan Fund (oclf.org).
FINCA (fincacanada.org) has offered loans since 1984, accepting donations that fund their informal, locally administered "Village Banks," rather than facilitating peer-to-peer loans. Similarly, Immigrant Access Fund (iafcanada.org) provides donation-driven microloans to help skilled immigrants get the licensing or training they need to work in their field in Canada.
Nearly 50 Canadian crowdfunding platforms use a wide range of donation, lending and investment models and commission fees to help people raise money for everything from new products to social justice campaigns (see: ajmag.ca/bees). The National Crowdfunding Association of Canada (ncfacanada.org) has an online directory of platforms and funding portals, and the Canada Media Fund hosts a directory relevant to creative projects (crowdfunding.cmf-fmc.ca). Unlike many US-based sites, the well-known kickstarter.com is open to Canadian projects. It uses an all-or-nothing model (wherein crowdfunders must meet their total goal to receive the money) and only funds creative projects with a clear purpose and tangible outcome, like a book or video game.
Niche crowdtunding sites include artmarketcanada.com for Canadian artists and patrons, pursu.it for amateur athletes, csicatalyst.org for social change projects and weeve it or causevox.com for non-profits. The "friend-funding" platform zokos.com allows guests to contribute money to social events so hosts don't have to pay for everything, and it also facilitates collaborative menu planning.
There's currently a campaign to establish Canadian green bonds, which would entail a government-backed, arm's-length fund to support the development of renewable energy infrastructure. Learn more at greenbonds.ca and ajmag.ca/greenbonds.
Regional and online bartering networks create opportunities for people to exchange consumer goods or services and to establish value standards such as "barter dollars" to manage indirect trading. Swapsity (swapsity.ca) facilitates bartering across Canada and holds "swap meets" in Toronto, and there are regional networks such as LETS (lets.victoria.bc.ca) on Vancouver Island or BarterWorks (barterworks.org) in Waterloo Region, Ontario. Individuals and businesses have used First Canadian Barter Exchange (barterfirst.com) since the late 1990s, and Barter Biz Canada (barterbizcanada.com) is another business-to-business network. U-Exchange.com lists barter offers and requests by province, and also includes home and vehicle exchanges.
Community gardens exist in many cities, neighbourhoods and towns across Canada, offering a range of opportunities to get involved with and benefit from growing local food. An emerging tweak on this model is yard sharing, which turns unused private property into a decentralized network of garden plots. Launched in 2008 with three participating communities,...