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trademe: a market place for reverse mentoring

When we're kids, we do odd jobs, like mowing lawns, for a little cash. There's value for both parties - kids make some scratch, and adults get someone to mow their lawn. The neighborhood is the marketplace. What if we had a market place for mentoring? Today, kids are good a many things, besides mowing lawns, which may be value to seniors. Need help setting up an iPad, or downloading music? Chances are you'll turn to a young person for help. trademe is an online marketplace for exchanging skills and needs across generations. Kids are rewarded for their efforts through contributions to a charity or civic organization of their choice (eg marching band, girl scouts, etc).

Photo of Nick Dawson
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How would you describe your idea in one sentence?

trademe is an online marketplace for trading skills and needs across generations.
Like taskrabbit, but for mentoring…

Ideally, "skills" would come from younger generations and “needs” from seniors. 

Younger members would publish a profile including the kinds of things they are good at ant want to share. For example: 

* Setting up an iPad

* Making a Facebook page

* Drawing and painting

Senior members also have profiles and can identify areas where they’d like some mentoring: 

* Sharing photos with my family

* Booking travel online

* Walking a 5k

a true marketplace 

Each skill or need is associated with a value. For instance, helping a senior with their Facebook page for an hour may earn a $20 donation. Donations go to a local charity or civic group of the younger member’s choosing.  Users decide how much they are willing to donate, or accept for a need or skill. 

Amazon-style ratings

Each member would get the opportunity to rate other members they interact with. A simple 5 star system and review would help seniors find the best youth mentor for their needs.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to test any assumptions you might have about your idea?

A simple Google Form could let people identify skills and the resulting spreadsheet could be printed and given to a local senior group - if any of the skills match up with needs from that group, it'd be easy to see if matching idea works.

What aspects of your idea could benefit from the input, skills or know-how of our OpenIDEO community?

Everything! First, is the idea of an "economic marketplace" (even if the currency is karma points, or donations) appropriate? Or should the rewards of mentoring be sufficient to propel any solution? Also, how might we overcome the technological generation gap for those who aren't online?

Evaluation results

16 evaluations so far

1. How well does this idea inspire and engage young people to support older adults through mentorship?

Really well – this idea clearly activates young people to support older adults - 37.5%

It’s getting there but could use a bit more work to flesh out exactly how - 50%

This idea doesn’t really address how to inspire and engage young people as mentors to older adults - 12.5%

2. How clearly does this idea outline a path to scale so that it can spread from one local community to around the world?

Crystal clear – I understand all the milestones that this idea would need to hit in order to spread beyond one local geography - 31.3%

It’s pretty clear that this idea has the potential to scale but the steps needed to grow aren’t detailed enough - 50%

Not very clear – I’m not sure this idea is designed to scale given how it’s explained here - 18.8%

3. How well does this idea define who its target users are and the ways that it can meet their needs and life stages?

Very well – I understand exactly who this idea is meant to engage and how it will support them - 43.8%

Ok – I’m not sure I could tell you exactly who the target user is but I might be able to guess - 56.3%

It’s hard to tell who this idea is actually meant to engage and support - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

It rocked my world - 43.8%

I liked it but preferred others - 43.8%

It didn’t get me overly excited - 12.5%

This inspired (1)

Local Barter Market


Join the conversation:

Photo of Leigh Cullen

Nick, This is a really cool idea and I can see how this could take off. I like the philanthropic core. Well done!

Photo of Ricardo Gomes

Congrats Nick & Team "TradeMe"
You may like to check out and contact "NextVillage" as a potential resource/community partner for your projected Youth Mentors to connect with. "NextVillage is a community, independence, interdependence support network for aging adults in northeast SF.
- Good Luck

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on your idea making it to the Top 20 shortlist, Nick! The notion of “neighbourhood as marketplace” has a local flavour that also feels ripe for scaling. We love the idea of personalising the incentive for young people by supporting an interest or hobby of their own. This type of reward sends a very distinct message and we’d love to see you play that up in this idea. It might spur some thoughts about sponsorship or how you might imagine funding the programme by subsidising the donations. We wonder what some natural partnerships might be with organisations whose values align with supporting the character development of young people. We’re excited to see you and the team begin to prototype this idea! As you move through Refinement, also be sure to explore the subgroups of users among young people (ages 15-24) and older adults (over 50). Talking with folks from each group will help you design a site for what matters at the various life stages represented amongst this wide ranging group. Or, you might decide to narrow your focus to just high school students, for example. We love your current visualisation and can’t wait to see how it evolves. There are many online prototyping tools available such as but sometimes, even just drawings stuck to cardboard phones is a great way to gather user feedback. Keep up the great work! For more tips for this Refinement phase, check out and catch our Lowdown on Refinement at

Photo of Amber Capehart

Hi Nick,

Great idea, definitely. Just a thought...

As someone mentioned previously, we have to consider which demographic of the older generation we are targeting. I think a good way to apply this to the different demographics of the older generation would be to offer a call-in phone number where a senior could call and ask for a specific task they want help with, i.e. FaceBook or GMail, etc. They could then be matched with someone with the skill set they're looking for in their area.

Photo of Pam Haidenger-Bains

Hey Nick -- I'm beginning to see a pattern emerging from the different ideas and postings for all of the ideas. We're really dealing with two to three different demographic groups at the "elderly" end, each with distinctly different skill sets and needs for the mentoring process. For example, although I'm technically a "senior" for this challenge (I'm 60) I don't belong to any seniors groups, I have lots of high end skills to trade, and I have lots of technology. My mother-in-law is 85 and living in seniors assisted living, with more minimal technology and difficulty understanding how to work it. So reaching out to her is quite different than reaching out to me.

The same can be said of the youth end. The mentoring skills and interests of a 16 year old are vastly different than those of a 20 year old. However, the entire youth group is more easily reached through the same social media networks, than are the "elderly".

I think we might need to consider defining the demographics for our ideas, or broadening the concept so that it will both reach and be of interest to a larger demographic. What are your thoughts on this?

Photo of Paul Reader

This is true Pam, and yet it's more complicated too.
Like you, at 63, I'm not particularly technically challenged but one of the ladies in my bible study group is far more technically challenged than me but a year younger. On the other hand there are many younger than me who have skills and knowledge that I would be eager to learn. I think, demographically, the lines are more blurred at the upper end, but agree that, in general, differences in mentoring skills and interests in the youth range are more distinct.

Photo of Cristhian Parra

Hi all! First, great idea Nick! I think your rewarding concept can be really helpful in motivating people to offer their help. I also think trademe mentoring can go both ways... As Paul and Pam noted, I think older adults can also offer their skills in many areas.

Photo of Kasia Dybek

Really like your idea, Nick! I like your simple examples like setting an iPad, booking things online, etc, because it does come down to just these really easy (to us) tasks and for the elderly they turn to be time-consuming and frustrating without a proper guidance. I was just wondering about the donation part...I like Ashley's input about community service hours or something less monetary so it is not another platform based on money (even though it goes to a good cause!), because it might be an obstacle to some seniors. But overall, I really think it could work and be very satisfying to both sites!

Did you think about the next questions, such as safety? Where these kind of 'tutorials' would take place? Do children under 18 need some parents consensus? Good luck in developing the concept!

Photo of Nick Dawson

The safety question gave me pause - so glad you brought that up!
Should / could mentoring sessions be virtual? Maybe they happen in public places? What thoughts does this group have?

Photo of Kasia Dybek

Hi Nick! I'll do some research, maybe similar platforms / activities / clubs exist around and give back to you soon with some answers :)

Photo of Kasia Dybek

Hi Nick! I was looking around to see how classes / activities / tutorials could be offered. There are a lot of online platforms (including whole channels on YouTube), where you can learn crafts for example. Here I found an info graph showing how elderly actually learn and want to use technology:

They are thematically categorized so you can find easily what you are looking for. Maybe the virtual presence of you concept could work like that: there are two main categories: learning from youngsters and learning from elderly. There could be various filters applied so you can find easily what you want to learn through short and simple instructions (like videos, images, gifs, etc.). There might be also rating system and comments and sharing your outcomes, e.g. if it's a tutorial about basic use of Photoshop, you could upload your work. Also, to make it more interesting you could browse through shortest tutorials / highest rated / tutorials of the month, etc.

Here are some examples of tutorial platforms:
COOKING: (this one if form 98 years old cook!)

I think the main problems with these websites (tutorial websites and even senior dedicated websites) is that they are really confusing! There is so much information, no real guidance, imagery, graphics, text...I can imagine elderly users getting very confused and discouraged easily. So if one of your project components is a virtual collection of tutorials, then it's good to have a look at existing websites, see and test with elderly users what works, what doesn't, what they expect more / less. Does it help at all?

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this post being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Selina McPherson

Hey Nick, I just had an idea for your awesome idea! Have you ever been on I have taken online classes there...and they have a system where you can either take a course for free, or you can pay a certain amount to receive a badge that may be put on your LinkedIn/Resume, etc. Perhaps this could provide some inspiration when thinking about your recognition system. Maybe millenials would pay for the badge? Maybe when certain people have done X amount of tasks, they are rewarded a badge? Another idea could be gamifying it...after a certain number of tasks they Level Up...

Photo of Nick Dawson

Woke up thinking about the name... could be misconstrued... what suggestions do we have for something else?

Photo of Jacqueline Morgan

ha ! funny you mentioned that ... I chuckled a bit when I read it ... I knew what you meant but my brain immediately said "wait a minute!!".... I don't have an alternative however!!

Your idea, similar to Barbie's, engages youth where they live - online. I like that these ideas are thinking about interactive relationships.

Similar to some of the comments I have posted with other contributors, my sense is that each of these ideas might be increasingly successful if we think through the ecosystem of partners needed to orchestrate a collaborative and seamless connection. Ashley Jablow's idea is in line with exactly this type of thinking - creating symbiotic need - everyone and everything involved in the ecosystem is mutually interdependent - everyone is there because they need and receive "something"...

What other channels/organizations/networks could we leverage like the Boys/Girl Scouts idea? Health organizations? Home Care? Travel? SAT Prep ? The ideas are endless - we just need a few anchor tenants for our village!

Photo of Al Browne

Love it Nick. Last week I had a conversation with Mozilla Foundation on the role badges might play to credential and incentive Mentoring this seems like a place for that.
Given that our target audience are Millennial thoughts as to how attractive a platform such as this would be to the average 20 year old?

Photo of Nick Dawson

Al - thanks for reminding me/us of the target group. I think you're right - we need to hone this in and make it more applicable to that 20-something group

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Love this! I really like that it very kickstarts an open conversation and exchange about matchmaking skills and needs.

One potential build: what if trademe partnered with an organization like the boy scouts or girl scouts and the young people could earn badges for their involvement? Rather than just donations, it might be interesting to tie in an incentive that a young person is already striving to reach - whether that's a fundraising goal, a new badge or even community service hours?

Photo of Nick Dawson

Ashley - I love the partnership idea! It may be much more powerful than donations! It marries an existing need (service projects, badges, etc) with a way to act on those needs.

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Totally agree :)

Photo of Al Browne

Guess i should have read these post before posting. That said, seems like we are on to something here.

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Not at all, Al - it's a sign that great minds think alike! :)

Photo of Meena Kadri

Loving the notion of earning badges. I also wonder whether there might be a short online empathy building course which would be the first badge you were nudged to earn? This could be a god way of seeding the basics around working with older adults which might be new to many who arrive at the platform?

Photo of Damien Lapray

this is a very good idea Nick. Do you think companies like facebook would accept to collaborate and give to the young people participating in this mentoring more visibility? I explain myself. Money would probably not work as previously explained by several people and I am not completely sure that simple empathy could be motivating enough. However young people, as far as I know, love being visible on social networks. Could there be that the more they mentor the more space they get, or bigger pictures, having special "hero badges", etc.
It would look good for the company "sponsoring" the mentors without any cost for them and youngsters might be dragged into it to be seen.
Though I might be completely out of topic...