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A metro or a polo?

Do you fancy a challenge? One that might disturb your sense that you are just fine as you are…?

…if so, read on.

I’m not going to write about the great ills of the world or of how there is extraordinary need overseas or on our doorstep.

I want to ask, simply, how reliable we are? How much are you – am I - a person of our word?  How much can we be relied upon?

When I was growing up my mum drove a metro. It went backwards and forwards to the garage. She even tried to get a brand newone on the basis she had been sold a dud. Eventually, after spending many hundreds of pounds, she bought a polo. They looked similar but what she loved aboutthe polo was its reliability.

We’ve just been reading the comments on our survey into how you use Streetbank. I’m struck by how highly we hold this perhaps old fashioned virtue of reliability. The thing about Streetbank members, you tell us, is their friendliness, their generosity, their reliability.  But by the same token, there were several comments about reliability, about times when someone let you down. They say they’ll collect something and then don’t turn up – perhaps don’t communicate that their plans have changed. Or they don’t think that we might have rearranged our diaries to be available then.

When we are on the receiving end of a change of plan, we mind.

What’s happened to erode our reliability?  I think two things:

1.       Technology makes it easier to tweak a plan. We can be reasonably confident that we’ll catch someone if life gets complicated.

2.       Individualism has weakened our sense of responsibility. If it feels right we should do it. If it doesn’t don’t bother.

Often though honouring a commitment is costly – we’re tired, something has come up, we don’t feel great. For any commitment there are a thousand reasonable reasons not to honour it – and almost always every one of them surmountable.

I say this with trepidation – life is complicated and at some point this week I’ll let someone down – I’ll move an appointment or be a few minutes late – not because of necessity but just because of my own selfishness. Putting my needs before theirs. And as I do it, it will subtly erode their commitment to me – and I’ll use up a bit of my time and theirs rearranging.

Recently I read this from the great Russian novelist, Alexander Solzhenitsyn “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart - and through all human hearts.”

I wonder how good we are at being able to distinguish between an excuse and an insurmountable reason. I wonder where the line should be drawn between our needs (which are known) and the needs of the person we’re interacting with (which are usually not). When is it okay to be, to put it in the vernacular “flaky” and when is it not?

Any wisdom or rules of thumb would be most welcome!

A final thought – perhaps the line for most of us should be drawn a little higher. Certainly, it would be wonderful if we, the Streetbank community, consistently honoured our commitments – while extending grace to those around us if they don’t.  That would be a truly generous community. 

コメント

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%B %e %G 4月 14 2015 Cheryl Collins が言いました:

I thanked someone for helping me out with something but to see the thank you you have to go on the person’s profile to see it. No-one else will see it except for the person who is thanked. Perhaps, if you could add these messages to the “activity” tab so that more people could see the thank you’s then they would be more inclined to do the same or be more courteous etc. Also, I used to have some boxes on my profile, which said if I helped or requested something they would appear. I certainly agree on a star based system too. Best wishes, Cheryl

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%B %e %G 4月 7 2015 Carey Ostrer が言いました:

A star system would be great! and a sad face symble for those who are made offers and they dont repond or dont show up, we will work much better if people know we are trying to be a loose community. Also, I thin htat we need to cancel any request that has been fulfilled. Take them off the request list that is.

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%B %e %G 4月 7 2015 Carey Ostrer が言いました:

A star system would be great! and a sad face symble for those who are made offers and they dont repond or dont show up, we will work much better if people know we are trying to be a loose community. Also, I thin htat we need to cancel any request that has been fulfilled. Take them off the request list that is.

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%B %e %G 3月 14 2015 EWA & NAGA TWOOFUS が言いました:

What bugs me, among other things, is the ones who ask for something or other, and when I offer it, don’t even bother to reply “Thanks, but No, Thanks” - for whatever reason…basically bad manners.

Courtesy is what it takes and that means truly considering other peoples needs and feelings….not false bonhomie.

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%B %e %G 3月 13 2015 anitha m が言いました:

I think there’s probably a place for more feedback/accountability on Streetbank – not just thank yous but also negative feedback, such as a star system for whether people return an item on time, clean etc. I for one would feel more confident lending out expensive items if I knew

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%B %e %G 3月 12 2015 Mark Boyle が言いました:

I think our lack of reliability is a symptom of a highly industrialised, globalised, individualistic and monetised world, in which our currency is no longer our reputation. We try to “create” community, but as Charles Eisenstein said in Sacred Economics …

“community is not some add-on to our other needs, not a separate ingredient for happiness along with food, shelter, music, touch, intellectual stimulation, and other forms of physical and spiritual nourishment. Community arises from the meeting of those needs. There is no community possible among a people who do not need each other.”

Deep down, and despite our best efforts to recreate it, we know we don’t really need each other – this is at the heart of the problem. Regardless of how we poorly we behave towards our neighbours, we know that as long as we have cash we can get food at the supermarket, energy from big utility companies, and pay “professionals” whenever we need help. Within this politico-economic model, especially a financially thriving one, communities disintegrate, and reliability with it.

That said, we are where we are today, which is why projects like streetbank are so vitally important, especially in urban areas. The question at hand is how do we, individually and collectively, foster more reliability in ourselves and each other. Ultimately, in my opinion, this will happen out of necessity when the industrial structures which make us more dependent on faraway strangers and multinational corporations than our neighbours fall like every other empire before it.

Until then, we need to work out how best to honour what we commit to doing with others. It’s a big question. Organisations like this can design our software to allow for feedback, but it’s very easy to get a new email address and username and start afresh if you get bad reviews – much easier than mending a tarnished reputation in the days when things were local. What we really need is political and cultural change. I must admit, after 10 years of being involved in projects like this, I still can’t come to a conclusion I feel confident about, but it is something I am going to put some thought into over the next few days — if I have any revelations, I will share.

What we all can do is take responsibility to be more reliable – projects such as these are pioneering, pushing our culture into new (or old) ground, and their success depends on those who want to use them. So lets all make a bigger effort to be reliable, regardless of whether we get positive/negative feedback or not.

When my neighbour, an ‘ol boy named Billy out here in rural Ireland, talks about reliability, he calls it “the word”. He’ll say “Aye, John Joe, he has the word”. I like that. Most people out here have “the word”, but Billy would say that even it is fading under the pressures of an outside world more connected through fibre optic cables than intimate human relationship…

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%B %e %G 3月 12 2015 Mrs Tiggywinkle が言いました:

You make a good point, it’s happened to me a few times, on Freecycle, but the majority of people (I like to think), are more considerate. Also, sites like this are so very useful, it’d be a shame to throw the baby out with the bath water, so I carry on using them!

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%B %e %G 3月 11 2015 pam owens が言いました:

Offer what you are comfortable with , any more is inviting abuse !

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%B %e %G 3月 11 2015 john timbrell が言いました:

A wonderful summing up of the deficiencies of Streetbank and other similar groups. Whilst I agree that some people are selfish and do not respond in a correct and polite way you MUST ignore them and put it down to selfishness, human nature, or whatever. I feel guilty if I make an arrangement and do no keep to it. I go out of my way to explain and apologise. That’s me. Many are not like that but many react in a similar way to me. Do not try to create rules that will stop the impolite from causing hurt. The rules will only be ignored by the impolite and harm the people who make an honest mistake. Streetbank is a wonderful community thing. Accept that people will abuse it, and continue to show by example that a community that works together is a powerful thing.

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%B %e %G 3月 11 2015 Simon Lee が言いました:

I agree, when people let us down by not turning up, on time or at all, it diminishes our trust in the system and makes us more reluctant. I know life can be busy and frequently changeable but most of us can afford the simple courtesy of quickly firing off an e-mail to inform us of the slight change or unintended lateness, especially as many of us can do this on the move from our mobile. I find one of the most frustrating situations is when you the giver/lender is having to chase the receiver.

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%B %e %G 3月 11 2015 Alison が言いました:

Kind of a shame that you have to write this you know? Hope we all know we just need to be people of our word but I know circumstances can be tricky but as long as we communicate….(:

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%B %e %G 3月 11 2015 Sam Nic, Tess, Alice & Rachel が言いました:

That’s a good thought… I wonder if there is a way of allowing negative feedback without the fear that can occur on a site like AirBnB. A friend of mine had someone to stay who left them caustic feedback in a way that sounded a bit unfair

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%B %e %G 3月 10 2015 Zoe Williams が言いました:

I think there’s probably a place for more feedback/accountability on Streetbank – not just thank yous but also negative feedback, such as a star system for whether people return an item on time, clean etc. I for one would feel more confident lending out expensive items if I knew the recipient had already completed several loans reliably. I would also feel pushed to be more on time if I thought it might affect my perceived trustworthiness. Streetbank members are a very community-minded and generous bunch of people, so it doesn’t need to be scary – maybe people could build up a score with each successful exchange.