The Benefits of Sharing 

This month, the East Bay hosts its first ShareFest, a festival celebrating the exchange of resources.

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These days, the phrase "sharing economy" generally brings to mind start-up companies that facilitate the rental of property or possessions in exchange for cash. However, supporters of the sharing movement are driven by more sustainable and empowering motives. During the month of May, a series of community events in cities throughout the East Bay will celebrate the less revenue-focused aspect of sharing resources.

The idea for the festival, called ShareFest, came from Shareable, a San Francisco-based news and community hub that provides resources on how to make economies more focused on resource-sharing. Last October, Shareable hosted a "map jam" during which more than fifty cities around the world, including Oakland and Berkeley, created maps of all of the resource-sharing organizations in their communities. The enthusiastic response inspired the organizers to invite those cities and others to organize ShareFests, an event or series of events highlighting the work of collaborative community organizations and initiatives. In some places, ShareFest is taking the form of one large event, but in the East Bay it will be a month-long festival with events hosted by different organizations.

On May 10, PLACE for Sustainable Living (1121 64th St., Oakland) will host one of ShareFest's largest events, the Creating Commons Festival. The event will feature educational workshops, clothing and crop swaps, public art, and garden installations; organizers said they hope to inspire enthusiasm around the creation of a public commons. "Sharing allows you to make use of resources in your own community and go hyperlocal, and that's where a sustainable community lies," said PLACE co-founder Jonathan Youtt. "So you don't have to drive ten miles to get something that a walk around the block could yield."

Other events include a picnic and discussion panel on the benefits of the sharing economy hosted by Dana Cafe at Humanist Hall (390 27th St., Oakland) on May 4, a potluck and gift circle at St. Alban's Parish (1501 Washington St., Albany) on May 6, and an Oakland Wiki Community Write-A-Thon at the main branch of the Oakland Public Library (125 14 St., Oakland) on May 24. The Sustainable Economies Law Center will also host "legal cafes" at various locations throughout the month, offering advice on topics such as how to incorporate your business and form a housing cooperative.

Supporters of the sharing economy believe that the movement could be particularly helpful in the East Bay, where neighborhoods undergoing rapid transformation are negatively impacting residents. "Housing is becoming more expensive and it's hard to start a business without sharing space," said Mira Luna, Shareable's organizing director. "Sharing is a portal to more access to resources. You are finding the tools to empower yourself in your community in order to meet your own needs."

For a full schedule of events, visit OaklandWiki.org/East_Bay_ShareFest.

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