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Tool Library for Every District

Helping individuals and small businesses reduce the cost of maintaining the places in which they live, work, and play. Tool libraries offer hundreds of hand and power tools for landscaping, home repair, and automobile maintenance.

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A pioneering scheme for this concept was founded by Dustin Zuckerman in Santa Rosa, California, in 2005.

The service is completely free, users must register some personal details and review borrowers rules and agreements. Most of the tools have been donated by civically minded citizens, and the Santa Rosa Tools Library is now a registered charity.

A Singaporean version run by the NEA might place a Tool Library in every district, situated in a central hub, close to MRT or Bus terminals. The purpose of this initiative would be to address the lack of storage space for most residents wanting to own a set of power tools, while providing them with the means to make improvements to their homes, gardens and businesses. 

Building on Zuckerman's existing model, the online home of the library could play host to a catalogue of success stories, highlighting how people have already taken advantage of the scheme to enhance their neighbourhoods, and offering videos and tutorials on the use of these tools. 

How does your concept inspire collaboration between individuals, private sector organisations, and the government in an effort to create cleaner neighbourhoods?

Individuals AND private sector organizations would be able to both contribute to and draw from this government sponsored initiative, in an effort to engender a sense of empowerment and responsibility for one's surroundings. This can be all too lacking in a context where most outdoor space is meticulously maintained by a veritable army of gardeners and maintenance workers. By taking away the burden of ownership for access to power tools, the initiative would be making small, incremental, positive changes to local environments infinitely more possible. There is also the opportunity for private sector organizations to add sponsorship or resources to the scheme. Tools could be donated free of charge, or monthly gatherings could be paid for by sponsors. The draw of these gathering could be simple workshops on different tools and skillsets.

How might your concept be scaled in a way that creates even more connections between people?

In addition to allowing members to borrow tools for their own purposes, a mobile incarnation of the Tools Library would host 'muck-in' days (could be sponsored by a coffee brand, drinks provided etc..) when users can come along and put all their tools to use in a common cause for the community.. building a playground for example. Also, it would be hoped that in conjunction with the physical meet ups, the online platform could facilitate the forming of small groups and the exchange of labour; one weekend you might be helping a (new) friend put some shelves up, the next weekend he/she could be helping to paint the ceiling in your living room!

How might you design a small experiment around your concept that would mobilise action?

Start with a single library in an area with little access to these tools, and build from there. Due to the local nature of borrowing/lending physical goods, scalability would be reliant on the strength of the movement's brand and the prominence of the sponsor brands it partners with.

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. How easy would it be for citizens to get involved and take initiative for this idea?

Very easy; this would rely on ground-up participation from the beginning. - 20%

Somewhat easy; there are ways for citizens to get involved, but an outside organiser may be needed to sustain and grow this concept. - 60%

This concept needs to be led and maintained by the government or private business. - 20%

2. Can you build this concept on top of something that already exists, like an organisation, physical space, or system?

Yes. This could fold into, or extend from, something that already exists. - 60%

This concept taps existing networks for a few things, but also needs a lot of new processes, materials, relationships, etc. - 20%

This concept requires a new system to be built to support it. - 20%

3. After the initial launch and support, could this concept be sustained and cared for over time by the community it's designed to serve?

Absolutely! This concept is easy to keep going. - 40%

It depends. There are opportunities for growth, but it's not yet clear how the concept would thrive after launch. - 40%

Probably not. A lot of effort would be needed to keep this concept going. - 20%

4. Does this concept create community?

Yes. It naturally brings people together and inspires them to take care of one another. - 40%

There is potential to create a thriving community. - 60%

No. It doesn't galvanize people to come together for a common cause or interest. - 0%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world. - 60%

I liked it but preferred others. - 40%

It didn't get me overly excited. - 0%

42 comments

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Photo of Jiaorui Jiang
Team

Great idea! This, if implemented, would be a great way to start a sharing community within existing neighborhoods and improve collective efficacy in the communities!

Photo of Yaowen
Team

This idea is great

Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

This would be a great idea, especially if refurbishing a dilapidated buildng into the library was part of the effort.
Including patterns and explanations for types of furniture and various other forms of information to aid in competency. Richly displayed and easily seen safety information would be a big necessity too. This seems like a great idea, I'd like to advocate for something like this in my city.

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hi Bobby, I love your angle on refurbishing dilapidated buildings; as an architectural designer this really hits the spot with me. I wonder if this can be somehow intertwined with a drive to provide more incentivized freelance work for people who find themselves unemployed. I'll try to paint a scenario:

The city finds itself in possession of a number of repossessed houses or industrial buildings. At present these pieces of real estate are a liability to the public; eating taxpayer money in security and giving nothing back in rental or other income. What if the city were able to return these properties to a salable state using a profit-share scheme of voluntary labour? Business could sponsor some of the materials, perhaps feed the workers, and youths could gain apprenticeships / accreditations upon logging a certain number of hours participation.

Upon a successful sale of the property, the city shares the profits with the volunteers in a completely transparent way. I guess it would be naive to think that the kind of reward the volunteers would gain could match a proper salary, and perhaps if the scheme grew too much in could be in danger of depressing wages across the industry, so I think there would have to be entry criteria, such that it really was aimed at helping out those who need the biggest leg-up to get onto the career ladder - perhaps the young and those out of work for 6+ months.

In terms of prototyping, your idea about establishing a home for the library as the very first building to be refurbished - sounds fantastic, and I love the expansion into furniture and signage, even touching on design, fantastic!

Keep in touch with any implementation thoughts.. will try and get the ball rolling in some capacity here in Singapore soon! If you see my response to Gaia above though, there may be better places to start; i'd love to share thoughts with anybody having a crack at it elsewhere!

Good luck!

Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

Sorry for the delay,I have been away learning from my masters program, I think an effective way to proceed with this is to look at sponsor groups, many corporations have a capacity to commit grant money to projects like this and it is built into their philanthropy budgets, two possible corporations to consider would be Lowes and Home Depot.

Local cities have plenty of dilapidated houses and businesses to choose from (I recently started working an internship at the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, tomorrow I"ll approach my supervisor about the possibility of seizing an abandoned firehouse that is near my apartment),

Finally , if you're in a college town, there are opportunities to partner with colleges for labor, funding and space. Colleges also bring to the table support of their community partners. (I work full time at a college) It's a long shot, but I'll spend the next few days exploring options and seeing if I can find support for this project locally,

Thanks for the spur to action, I'll get back with you with the results.
Thanks and good luck!

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hi Bobby,

Great to hear your exciting thoughts and potential contacts above. Lowes and Home Depot make perfect sense as sponsors, but we would have to convince them of the net gain somehow, since I guess part of the overall original concept is that 'perhaps less people should havet to buy their own tools outright'! I guess if we are trying to skill-up more people and use more materials then it still might make sense for them.

Colleges are a ideal fit though.. especially technical ones. An ulitmate aim of the scheme would be to integrate some form of really basic accrediation, to act as a stepping stone to achieving (or maybe shortening, reducing the cost of) more established formal accreditations.

Keep me informed on it all! I have a twitter feed you PM me on with further thoughts as this develops. Over here in Singapore I believe there's going to be some kind of hack-a-thon event in mid March relating to this event, so will hope to make some huge leaps and bounds then. If you're already making headway at your end, it would be great to present some of that progress and building blocks for whatever direction we end up going in at this end!

All the best,

James

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hey Bobby, How's it all going with Columbia?

Thought I give you an update - I am lucky enough to be sitting down with some fellow OpenIDEO-ers this weekend at a 'Make-a-thon' here in Singapore, where we are trying to move forward with some prototyping for a variation of this concept that also relates to the Smart Grid Games concept on the same challenge. Keep an eye on the feed for some crowd-sourced collaboration, would be great to bring the virtual team online in real-time!

It starts on Friday at 1330 Singapore time (GMT + 8 ... I think!) Sure OpenIDEO will be tweeting about it loads, and i'll hope to find a way for the team that is assmebled in person to be able to interact with any members of the virtual team who are still keen to be a part of it all and help push the idea along :)

Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

I'm so glad I got to be a part of this concept, I was swamped with graduate school around the time that this happened unfortunately or I would have definitely been a part of this event. Columbia is going great, I have established connections with a number of non profits and will be teaching a service learning embedded course in the fall, though at the moment I'm in New York City for the summer working on more graduate school things.

I can't wait to contribute to more of your concepts James, you're brilliant!

Photo of Gaia Montelatici
Team

This idea is very attractive to disseminate volunteering and civic participation and responsibility over private and public spaces. this would be more than appropriate and desirable in Belgrade as well. However, because of the unlikeliness of reliance on public funding in Belgrade, Serbia - it would be most appropriate to devise a self-sustaining business model. I think that to begin with, local businesses could pitch in to stimulate the start-up phase; community members could volunteer according to their talents/capacities...

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hey Gaia, thanks for your thoughts. Actually I think somewhere like Belgrade (I've not been, so can't be 100% sure) might be a better place for something like this concept to grow; the difficulty (if you can call it that!) in somewhere like Singapore, is that most public space is incredibly well maintained, and the cost of hiring handymen to sort domestic problems so cheap, that there is little opportunity for the amateur DIY enthusiasts to make an impact on the community.

I would suggest you take a look at the link to the Santa Rose link right at the start of the description; these guys seem to have managed largely without public finance. West Seattle Tool Library is also another existing example.

Might be looking at implementing this here in the next couple of months if we can find support from the gatekeepers, so do keep in touch and share any prototyping thoughts if you decide to have a go in Belgrade!

Photo of Gaia Montelatici
Team

YES, James!!!! The links are definitely fitting!!!! I am now writing a project for the development of local economies in municipalities along Danube in Serbia and I think that these kind of activities stimulate entrepreneurship and cooperation which is supposed to break the vicious circle of "stagnation"...So, I will definitely keep in touch to share upgrades :) THANKS :)

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hey Gaia.. great that you are starting something off! Having read your comments above, I'd love to suggest the same thing in Serbia as I have written in response to Bobby Cordell's comments just below here. There must be a way to engage more unemployed people in beneficial semi-paid freelance work, allowing some profit-share. I hope so anyway!

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hey Gaia.. you should check out Bobby's latest thoughts on sponsors and educational links above. You're absolutely right at targeting a break in the circle of stagnation.

In the 'industrial' economy, unless we are farming or mining something, it seems like we have to wait for someone to put money into at the top of the system before it filters down. However, particuarly in the knowledge/data economy, there seems to be a real opportunity to create something from nothing....

By cross-pollinating knowledge and skillsets (IT skills, languages, programming) over the internet (and in person where exisiting knowledge is present) using live projects, we can build knowledge-bases that did not previously exist, and potentially attract new micro-industries or investment, and regenerate regions.

As I said to Bobby too, over here in Singapore I believe there's going to be some kind of hack-a-thon event in mid March relating to this event, so we will hope to make some huge leaps and bounds then. If you're already making headway in Serbia, it would be great to present any progress or thoughts as further building blocks for whatever direction we end up going in at this end!

All the best,

James

Photo of Gaia Montelatici
Team

great James, thanks for adding me to your virtual team ;)...looking forward to cooperating more actively :)

Photo of Pedro Luís
Team

Congratulations James!

Photo of Jackson Ng
Team

I like the idea that we can have common households tools and gadgets to share. This will enable all the neighourhood to come together, to fix furniture, help maintain and upkeep the old folks household fittings like lights bulbs and toilets. 2nd hand furniture can be passed on to better homes. etc.
Expensive tools like a arc-welding set can be loaned at a small price so that people can use them to do DIY work.
Great idea!

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

James - we're so sorry that we may have lost some of the updates to this concept over the last 72 hours - we lost the AWS server stack which included the backup and even after working through the night some updates escaped us.

We've extended the Refinement Phase to the 27th to give everyone extra time to re-upload their content and to push your concept even further - apologies again if you did lose any updates...

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

It's quite a different concept – but there might be some aspects that you can build upon from this shortlisted idea from our Vibrant Cities Challenge: http://www.openideo.com/open/vibrant-cities/concepting/sharefair-on-and-offline-rent-swop-and-share-fair-/

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Thanks Meena, that was a really rich link. Loads more threads to pursue from the comments too.

I think at this point the idea needs to be distilled; plenty of great suggestions but maybe it's a touch stretched/diluted. Will be looking to resolve the following key points, please add any that you think also need clarification/development:

A) SCALE - how big is the library, how big is its catchment?
B) STAFFING - self run by user or in need of professional admin?
C) CONTENT - Anything goes or are their measures in place to avoid being a dumping ground?
D) COMMUNITY - How do the details of the concept draw people together and bind the community? Can it integrate other concepts?
E) INTERFACE - What do the physical and online interfaces look and feel like.. imagine a user experience...

Virtual Team please throw some opinions out there!

Photo of James Robertson
Team

As an aside, I love the 'Build Upon' feature of Open IDEO, but I think there is room to improve this even further with a 'Plug-In' element.

The existing collaboration map plays a similar role, but sometimes it can be suggested that one concept should either contain a few plug-ins or be contained within a larger umbrella. For instance, I would definitely see the Tool Library being a smaller part of a larger CRC as proposed by Eugene.. but then, with other Concepts, like my Smart Grid Games, I'd love to pick a handful of more specific concepts like Smart Bins from SF and Johan's projectors and street graffiti ideas, and explicitly suggest that they form part of a bigger picture.

I feel the lack of hierarchy is a real strength of this whole adventure, but at the latter stages, (maybe during applause?), small eco-systems of concepts plugged into each other could bring about another leap forward in how all these ideas might successfully leverage each other.

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Your 'aside' is more likely to reach the right eyeballs on our team via our Feature Suggestion forum: http://bit.ly/oi_forums ;^)

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Thanks! Comments made here:

https://openideo.zendesk.com/entries/22586032-plug-in-concepts

https://openideo.zendesk.com/entries/20057623-creating-combo-concepts

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

James I am thinking that if you linked this with some of the platforms that share ideas and discuss projects for improvements http://www.openideo.com/open/connected/concepting/weare.sg/#c-3b9a1047feaa386016f7c2897a9e9457 and http://www.openideo.com/open/connected/concepting/dish-in-dish-out-potluck-for-a-cause/#c-5023d04ad856c9a18fdea71115e9d462
you could have a good link between needs and resources. Additionally, know-how and wisdom could be exchanged effectively. for example: power drill JE2234-2012 trigger sticks a little be careful! or I have extra blue paint from paint-the-bins event.
People might be able to get in touch with others who were able to get something done and learn from them.
What do you think?

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hi Christine, thanks for the suggestions. I think my reply to Meena above covers most of what I'm thinking at this point. I would see the concepts that you've linked above as all being able to come under the larger umbrella of Eugene's CRC, but probably keeping their individuality rather than attempting to combine. They would certainly work well together and benefits from physical/online proximity. Thanks!

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DeletedUser

Hi James totally agree that they need their own sites.


I was thinking that since they are reporting on improvements, they can also make known that tools were from the tool library which would spread the word and give more ideas.
People reading about improvements may not have the tools or know-how.
Likewise people who know of the tools may not know how to help out or even if they should.
This is a way to close that gap.

d)
I also think that this can hook up with the recycling concept. There are always leftover bits and bobs from any project. Paint, nails, screws, brushes and so on. Perhaps 3R could maintain a schedule of what is available, how much there is and where and link this to the tools site. Or perhaps things that are sent to the 3R may see new life and be applied to an improvement project.
These would reduce the use of material in general while reaching a wider group of people.

e)
i am thinking that if someone uses the tool library they pay back a little by contributing with photos and instructions of the improvements and material lists. There could be a way to draw attention to people with particular skills and they could be featured as leading lights. In this way the library can have faces from the community.

have you seen this?
http://www.instructables.com/

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Hi James, great concept! Would be keen to include the Tool Library in the Community Recycling Centers concept at http://www.openideo.com/open/connected/concepting/community-recycling-centers/.

Maybe the CRC could be renamed as Community 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) Center.

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Nice one, James -- another one of your concepts made it to the NEA Challenge Shortlist. It's helpful to have an example of where an initiative like this has worked in the past, and inspiring to think of the connections that it could create in Singapore.

As you start to refine your idea, think about local champions and educational resources: In addition to the start-up efforts put forth by the NEA, who would be needed from the community to keep this up and running, and how might people learn new skills and new methods that might be needed for the projects they're working on? For more tips on how to iterate and prototype your idea during the Refinement phase, read here http://bit.ly/connect-refinetips and check this Lowdown: http://bit.ly/oi_refine

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Thank OpenIDEO! As ever, you're totally right about needing to identify the local champions. I am trying to get a picture in my head about who makes this happen. Perhaps learning more about various apprenticeship schemes would lead to more understanding about where existing skills area are where tools/skills are lacking.

Maybe the one way to start is to lower the barriers to entry for all involved - more along the lines of a communal repository for books, furniture, kitchen utensils, strollers etc, and situate in void decks. Would need to contact HDB and find out what, if any, obstacles are in the way of occupying a couple of bays in a void deck and trying the scheme out.

Will get working on a layout!

Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

Wow. I love the community and green aspects of this idea. A great model for resources that may be shared within communities. No need for everyone to have the full spectrum of tools. Similarly, no need for everyone to have the whole spectrum of, say, cooking tools. Perhaps a cooking tools library with individuals willing to share their niche expertise. (I'll lend a cherry pitter and even demonstrate how to bake a clafoutis; I'd like to borrow a crock pot for my annual chili potluck...).

Would be nice, too, if there were a communal library with goods for new families so that every new family didn't go out and buy another new stroller, car seat, etc. It could also provide a way for new parents to meet other parents, for parents to share knowledge and resources about everything from time management and sleep techniques to local pediatricians, schools, etc.

In other words, these libraries can also serve as hubs from which social networks could grow.

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hi Stephanie, these are great thoughts. I was at the Open IDEO x Syinc event last night, and a similar idea took route for communal respositories situated in HDB void decks (communal areas found in public housing in Singapore).

The Libraries/repositories would be open, inviting spaces, staffed by friendly volunteer uncles and aunties on a rota, who would gossip about neighbours etc. Items (which would include all sorts, beyond simply tools) could be marked in a very lo-fi way with different coloured post-it notes for length of borrowing allowed - a day, week, month, etc...

We also discussed expanding the exchange beyond goods, into services and time; people could post their skills - offered and needed, and also their availability. The repository turns into an event space for coffee mornings or mahjong evenings etc..

The above is a very lo-fi idea that needn't even be digital... but I think the original concept has room for a really smartly co-ordinated online platform, professionally operated, involving sponsors, donors, categories, catalogues and user accounts etc. And the physical venues would perhaps involve some kind of all-day f+b facility, run in a co-op fashion perhaps...

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Oh, the communal repositories iteration you describe above makes me smile.

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DeletedUser

sorry - posted prematurely. I meant to add that I particularly like the social element co-generated by the participation of "uncles" and "aunties".

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

The West Seattle Tool Library (http://wstoollibrary.org, @WSToolLibrary) offers tools and events/classes. They also have a mobile library (check out their blog). To encourage volunteers, they offer credit which I think one can use on tools, classes, and maybe workshop space.

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DeletedUser

Sounds interesting! I like how the concepts broaden the literal concept of tools to looking at enabling access to knowledge as well. i.e. providing physical landscaping tools like shears can get people to take care of their local gardens and landscapes, but dispensing expert knowledge (through videos) on how to prune, take care of specific plants, etc in the neighbourhood can empower the community further.

How about going a step further and providing contacts or connecting people in the neighbourhood with the actual skillsets?

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hi Seng Hong,

Thanks for the feedback! You raise an interesting point about the inclusion of professinoal services. Initially at least, I would be reluctant to encourage businesses to market building/maintenance services as part of the tool library; the reason being that the primary goal is to re-capture a sense of personal connection and responsibility for our surroundings.

I know the Home Improvement and DIY culture in Singapore is nowhere near as prevalent as it is in places like the US and Europe. This could be for a number of reasons - not least of which is the differing maintenance requirements of detached houses and high-rise apartments. However, I wonder if by removing the cost and storage burdens of owing the tools, we would see a greater involvement and connection between Singaporeans and their environments?

Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

Hey James!

Totally agree with you on not encouraging businesses through this. I was thinking more of it being a channel to get to know the people within the community. e.g. "I'll just got to know someone who's great at simple plumbing work just across the street".

In a way, it might create even more connections between people living close together. Who knows? Maybe it might encourage a culture of reciprocity ("You did this for me free, so perhaps I should do something for you too!") or paying it forward.

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Absolutely..! As well as individual reciprocal relationships, maybe small groups of friends can form too, to carry out bigger tasks. It would be neat to build little skillset icons into membership profiles, so that people can see at a glance what each other can offer.

Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

These elements and the library would be immediately helpful in NYC and NJ right now in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Loads of volunteers seek to help, many of whom are surely skilled at construction and demolition, many of whom have tools, could utilize and contribute - even temporarily - to the library's tool and knowledge inventory.

I like the idea of increasing the inventory by incorporating/permitting temporary contributions in addition to what is akin to a museum's "permanent collection."

Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

Actually, the above idea could benefit from a combo of the tool library, Kirk's #connect my district concept (http://www.openideo.com/open/connected/concepting/connectmydistrict/#c-e3375a5d01725d61dde247563653f9b0), Joana's Help 4 U concept (http://www.openideo.com/open/connected/concepting/interactive-map-plug-in-for-social-networks/), and the need map that Ashley mentioned there (http://needmap.com/demo/ ).

Individuals, districts, and various other macro and micro levels of groups and individuals could post and/or find needs in real time and contribute specifically where they want. this individualization/personalizing of donations enables transparency, so donors know exactly how their donations are used. it also allows people to actively contribute, which is often more meaningful and gratifying than just writing a check, and possibly more valuable, too.

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Lot's to love here, James! Am especially digging the muck-in days and thoughts around sponsorship.

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

And I wonder if there could be a way to trigger pride in one's district via some healthy competition for best muck-in projects, etc?

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hi Meena, yes, definitely worth thinking about ading a competitive element in order to help generate interest, pride, and spread the word. The key question would be: Where exactly does the land come from? Would the muck-in days take place on pubically owned land or could portions of privately owned land be opened up to local residents for vegetable gardens etc? Would be good to understand a little more from the NEA the nature and locations of the type of spaces they were thinking about improving when putting together this brief.