I was thinking about my philosophy honors thesis a lot while I was working on it–so much so that it was often the last thing on my mind as I fell asleep. And it was in one of these half-awake moments that I thought, “What if there was a website like Craigslist where you could get your needs met?” I got really excited because it seemed like such a good idea! Let’s say you need a ride to work. You go on the website, which I called Need Match, and someone in your area has posted, “I’ll give you a ride to work if you need it.” Boom!
You might be thinking, “Couldn’t you just ask a friend to give you a ride?” Your friend might be busy, but the question points to what’s at the core of Need Match: we should already have people in our lives that are helping us. There’s a lot of different ways in which we engage in co-operative activity without even thinking about it. If you’re a parent and you hang out with other parents while your kids play, you might not think of what you’re doing as a parenting co-operative but that’s more or less what it is. Need Match, ideally, would be a website that would help you arrange or get involved in other such co-operative activities.
When I looked online the closest website was called Meet the Need (it even has a word in common with Need Match!). Through meet the need, you can offer to help others and others can find you if you’re offering to help. The problem with Meet the Need, in my opinion, is that you have to go through a church to use it–seems like an unnecessary step to me (also seems like it could alienate people not affiliated with church).
I also don’t think Meet the Need is robust enough. You can imagine a perfect community based on what we know of our needs and if you compare your community to the perfect community and see where it falls short you can get the ball rolling on improving your community. You might not even know the ways in which your community is lacking. You could be living in a food desert, lack adequate transportation, etc. Businesses, non-profits, or individuals could use this information to help improve not just their communities but any community.
At this point Need Match might seem a little utopian, but I think there’s precedent to suggest that such a website/service isn’t too far off. You’ve got micro-loans, crowd sourcing, crowd funding, and soon even businesses will be able to crowd fund. The Internet has not only democratized information; it’s democratizing productive power. A great example is The Tompkins 300–that’s where comedian Paul F. Tompkins knows to book a show in a particular city once a Facebook group for that city has reached at least 300 members. Or when Newark Mayor Corey Booker used Twitter to find out who needed a pothole fixed or their driveway shoveled.
People are out there who need help and there are people out there who want to help them. The next step is a service that connects them. And, related but unrelated, petition websites that actually make a difference.