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How a tool-sharing program could forge stronger neighborhoods

Feb 20, 2017

The Next Idea

You can’t rebuild your home or your neighborhood without tools. But tools cost money.

Here’s a solution: a community tool-sharing program. “Shovel Share” is just that, and it’s a finalist in the Knight Cities Challenge.

Should the idea win, Shovel Share would create a network of tool-sharing centers around Detroit.

“They would be operated by different community development organizations that would be local to the neighborhood in which they’re located,” said Lydia Rae Levinson from Michigan Community Resources, the organization behind Shovel Share. “And groups and residents would have access to different tools, materials and training opportunities that would allow them to participate directly in the stabilization and revitalization of their own neighborhoods.”

"Detroiters are a resilient group and they've been maintaining vacant homes, maintaining historic structures and maintaining vacant lots on their own for a long time. This is just filling the gap, giving groups access to resources they might not otherwise have."

She said homeowners around the city would have access to an online web portal. They could log in to see which tools are available for use at each tool-sharing center. Walking in0.to a tool-sharing center would also be possible.

Part of the idea is to provide residents in Detroit the equipment needed to take care of vacant homes or lots throughout the city. Levinson said the tool-sharing centers would therefore provide everything from lawnmowers and hammers to saws, plywood and anything needed for roof repairs.

But, of course, tools are of little use if people don’t know how to use them. To address that issue, Shovel Share creators collaborated with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network. That organization plans to hold classes and hand out informational pamphlets at each tool-sharing center.

“Detroiters are a resilient group and they’ve been maintaining vacant homes, maintaining historic structures and maintaining vacant lots on their own for a long time,” Levinson said. “This is just filling the gap, giving groups access to resources they might not otherwise have.”

Levinson said Shovel Share could also build up economic opportunity in Detroit. The hope is that access to tools would create new job opportunities and human capital.

“It’s also going to increase the capacity of community development organizations to forge new connections both with and between residents,” she said. “And we’re hoping that will collectively strengthen existing neighborhood conditions, which might even contribute to increasing local property values and stabilization and increase population, attracting more talented people and keeping those talented folks that we already have.”

For the full conversation, including how the curriculum developed by Shovel Share could translate to other cities around Michigan, listen above.

The Next Idea is Michigan Radio’s project devoted to new innovations and ideas that will change our state.

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