Photo Courtesy of WeShare Dublin

Bernie Brannick wants you to borrow more from your neighbours. That’s why she co-founded WeShare Dublin.

“It’s about connecting people again, because money just isolates people,” said Brannick, over the phone. “When somebody wants something they just go and buy it, they hand over money and that’s the end of that relationship.”

So instead of going shopping when you need something, she wants you to turn to this community group — people who have pledged their skills, knowledge, time or unwanted items — and ask them for it.

You’ve probably heard of the sharing economy and all the benefits: initiatives like this can help people save money, help reduce waste going into landfills and help gel communities together. That’s what WeShare is about.

People are happier when they’re helping communities, says co-founder Eoghan Parle.

“They’ve better relationships and that reinforces the idea of just doing things for people because you can, rather than trying to make some money out of it so that’s really cool,” he says. “It’s a very exciting time to be involved in this area.”

The Origins

Brannick used to be a yoga teacher and now works for the Irish Tourist Assistance Service, helping tourists who have been victims of crime. She has been running the group for a couple of years, but launched WeShare officially in April 2015.

She was inspired, she said, by the Freeconomy blog by Irishman Mark Boyle, who lived for two years without money. Boyle later got involved with Streetbank, a similar sharing site in the UK that has over 70,000 members. (WeShare Dublin is an affiliate of Streetbank.)

Through the Freeconomy community, Brannick met web developer Eoghan Parle, who ran a similar website at that time, called Dublin Favour Exchange. In 2014, they merged the two groups.

Alongside the WeShare Dublin group, Brannick also set up a small subgroup just for the Dublin 3 area. It’s called WeShare Dublin 3 and it helped her take the group a step further, even with limited resources.

At the moment, the numbers registered on the WeShare Dublin site are still quite modest, with 300 people signed up to date.

But Brannick said she’s hoping to grow the group so that she can try to make possible all of the other ideas that she has. The next monthly meeting is in The Long Stone on Monday 25 July at 7pm and new members are always welcome, she says.

“I like the idea of forming a home-repair team,” she says. “We would go together to each other’s houses and do the painting or whatever might be needed, that would be one idea.”

Another idea is inspired by the Good Gym runners-with-a-reason over in London, which her nephew is part of.

“They go for a run but when they’re out, they go to either a person or a community and help them out with something,” she said. “It could be digging the garden or it could be painting or doing something like that.”

Good Deeds

At the moment, all kinds of offers are listed on the site, from a free juicer to a lesson in mindfulness, web-hosting advice for the technophobic, or an adjustable spanner.

Brannick herself has tapped the group she helped found. “I needed to get flyers done and a logo and a graphic designer actually provided me with all of that for free,” she said. “(…) It was just incredibly kind.”

Co-founder Parle used the site to get a guitar to replace his own broken instrument. “Normally someone wouldn’t be willing to part with a guitar but because it was to learn on as oppose to flogging it for a fiver, I think he was happy to give it away,” he said.

He had a daughter last year, so hasn’t had much time to practice, but says that WeShare is a great way to try out new things without having to invest large amounts.

Kieran Craven, another member, agrees. “I used to do yoga and hadn’t for a long time and wanted to get back into it so I put a post up on the website and someone immediately lent me a book that they had on yoga and then I also got an hour’s instruction from somebody,” he says.

“It removes the barriers to get started in a new project,” he said. He’s given back too, offering his skills in bicycle repair and maintenance to others in the group.

Members gave seeds for kids to use at a pot-making session run by the Community Reuse Network of Ireland at Bloom this year, too, said Parle.

“Between those donations and some seeds they got from elsewhere, I think they made two or three hundred pots with seeds for kids at Bloom so that was really cool and it’s nice to connect with other groups who are thinking along similar lines,” he said.

There’s also the grower’s group. “We have a little plot where we’re growing food, which we just started this year,” says Brannick. “It was set up to encourage people to come together to do stuff that benefits them.”

While the only micro-group at the moment is in Dublin 3, Brannick is hoping that more neighbourhood-level groups will follow.

“My idea would be to have WeShare Dublin 1, Dublin 2, Dublin 3, Dublin 4 and so on, to make it very local so that the community really does develop and that people on each street in the area can get to know each other,” she says.

“It takes a long time to change the mindset where people automatically think, ‘Oh I want something, I’ll go buy it,’” she says.

“It takes time. We’re still waiting for that to really happen, but for that we need more people because we have everything we need but we need to have plenty of people on board in order for that to be absolutely true.”

Mark O'Brien is a journalist and broadcaster. He is the features writer for Travel Ireland Magazine and recently compiled and presented a 10-part documentary series, broadcast on Dublin South FM.

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