cafe mama

entering the mind of the married mom

Cooperative is this week's mama buzzword, or, babysitting coops for overachievers - July 22, 2004

All this buzz going on about cooperatives...Olivia, Leslie and Betsy got me thinking...

I've got a crazy plan. Let me outline it for you. I had a little idea about a co-operative babysitting network so that moms could get more involved in neighborhood associations, volunteering, and activism, that I talked about briefly on my oregonlive blog. Several people who read it thought it was a great idea and we started talking about it. I'd be interested in going beyond the four-parents-on-my-street model to create a bigger network, where you didn't have to negotiate a one-to-one transaction, more like a service barter version of eBay.

Let's make a posting system, like craigslist, where people post their needs...babysitting tomorrow night, make dinner for my husband when I'm out of town, weekly gardening, fix my laptop, teach me knitting, etc. etc. when you perform a service, you get a token to trade for another service.

In order to create a trusting network, the "customer" would have to submit your hours/task details to the system for you to get credit. You could have a reputation system like eBay (positive/negative with comments) so that anyone who flaked repeatedly would be disqualified. In order to get people started, if you hadn't received any tokens yet you could donate a little money - like $5 or $10 per hour - to get your first tokens, then it would be expected that you would get involved with performing services.

How about "premium" services? Computer repair, writing a business plan, midwife services, acupuncture? For these the "fee" would be double the tokens for a typical service. I thought about this and it has some drawbacks - we don't want to devalue the role of the child care provider - but if we could establish a criteria, like, if you had to expend considerable amounts of money to learn a skill or gain licensing - technical school, medical school, business school, electrician apprenticeship and license fees, or whatever - that you should be remunerated for that.

This will take some help. I would need someone who could build me a web backend with a database to post job requests, maintain feedback, and create the token payment system. It would probably be a two-week job for someone who knew their stuff. Once that was going, it would basically run itself.

If you're interested in helping, let me know. Cooperative @