Here are some things I've learned while working on OurGoods.
1) This project is my life.
I asked The Field to support the idea that became OurGoods.org in December 2008. A year and a half later, with OurGoods nearly open to the public, the OurGoods team (Louise Ma, Rich Watts, Jen Abrams, Carl Tashian, and myself) still can't decide how to divide our ERPA grant money. Why is that? Because we are all creative directors for the project, not contracted wage laborers who don't gain anything larger from its success or failure. We will probably divide the remaining $10,000 up based on a percentage of hours contributed, because we've all put in far more time than the money can cover. I prefer taking a general honorarium to clocking hours because everything I do relates to OurGoods. I will live my entire life answering the question: What is creative work worth and who should support it? In this country, the government certainly isn't going to. Should the value of creative work be measured in dollars, hours, materials, smiles from strangers, peer respect, personal satisfaction, or something else? A more direct question is: What is our work worth to each other? I believe that independent creative workers MUST engage with one another for satisfaction. We can benefit enormously from conversations about value. Bartering creative work for creative work allows us to value each other without measuring everything in dollars and hours. Suddenly, technical skill, research, generosity, and peer respect drive interactions more than market or institutional success.
2) Web designers know what the website should be.
If you wonder why our website(s) are so effective, it's because Louise, Rich, and Carl are all authors of the project, not contracted designers. 3 of the 5 co-founders are web designers who understand the material potential of the web. What does this mean? They can shape the system with deep technical and conceptual skills.
3) What's easy/fun for you is worth a lot to someone out there.
The ideal barter match on OurGoods is known as an "elegant negotiable" to the business world. This is when you do something simple in exchange for something you really like, and the person you're bartering with feels exactly the same way. For example, I am a foodie and spend A LOT of time cooking. It's easy for me to make extra summer rolls, sourdough english muffins, or fresh salsa while I'm making some for myself. So, I bartered fresh food with Louise in exchange for my new website, which she did in no time. We are going to host workshops this November to help you recognize your elegant negotiables (the things you do happily that other people need desperately).
4. I want to audit economics classes.
I've done a lot of research on alternative currencies, and Trade School exposed me to a range of techniques and tactics, but I am still yearning for more information about economics in general and the political economy of art.