Why don’t neighborhoods have a collectively owned tool shed? My neighbors and I own the most amazing amount of idle captital equipment! We each have our own hedge trimmers, snow blowers, lawn mowers, etc. etc. It is mind boggling! I’ve been puzzling about this question for years and years, because this question is a good small proxy for many big questions.
A varient of the tool shed question is snow removal. Why don’t neighbors band together to hire somebody to plow their sidewalks and driveways. There is an interesting liturature on that question. It is a really hard problem. Consider this simpler one. Say three families are interested in planting a tree. Take as a given that the cost for the tree is $200. With the help of powerful mind reading techniques we know exactly what each family is willing to donate for this project. The numbers are: $100, $75, and $50. So in theory there is enough money ($225) to plant the tree. In practice the tree is very unlikely to get planted. The project falls apart as issues of equity, fairness, debt, etc. enter into the negotiation.
One way to solve this problem is to insert a middleman. He can then obscures who paid what. Community activists often fill that role. They keep the secret. If that information got out the whole project would fall apart. If you want to kill a community activity just force the contribution levels of the various participants out into the open!
The tool shed question is more complex than the tree planting project. The tree is a one shot event, while the tool shed has all kinds of policing, maintainance, liablity, etc. etc. aspects that add complexity. Worse they add uncertainty and we all know that’s deadly to action. One reason I find Circle Lending an interesting business is how they reduce the uncertainty by doing the loan servicing if one or more people agree to lend money to an activity.
So. Take notice of Fundable.org today. They provide a place you can go if you want to raise a lump of cash, via contributions or donations. If they could keep the secret then they could be used to solve the tree purchase example.
Group purchasing is very common in the online car tuning communities. One guy offers to collect the funds from a group for a make a bulk purchase of something. Often this is an accessory that, for example, you can only buy in Japan were the car was made. He then orders, splits out the parts, and ships them off to the group members. This is exactly like community activists acting as middleman. The guys that organize these things keep secret the varations of the various participants. I notice a lot folks who do this use paypal to collect the funds. So does fundable.org.