Smart Solutions

Tools & Talent App

A smartphone application enabling villagers to find, book and borrow shared resources.

Implemented inTorup

Country : Denmark

What’s the solution?

The Tools&Talent App is a smartphone application that provides villagers with access to a bank of local resources and local skills (people) that they can book according to their needs.

The development of the app goes hand-in-hand with the development of a physical tool bank, where shared tools and equipment can be stored in a physical location in the village – such as a barn. This can include small hand tools as well as bigger machinery needed, for example, in construction works. Relevant materials and equipment such as tables, benches and tents can also be made available.

A professional caretaker or volunteers are needed to manage the shared tools and ensure that they are kept in good condition for ongoing use. The caretaker oversees the maintenance and handing out / receiving back of all tools and equipment.

Development of the app also goes hand-in-hand with mapping local skills available amongst the villagers and presenting these also through the app so that local people can find and engage skilled technicians or craftspeople according to their needs.

All the available local resources – tools and skills – are uploaded onto the app so that users can find and organise to borrow what they need.

What makes it smart?

The solution is smart because (Sustainable)

  • It uses modern digital technologies to provide easier access for sharing not only tools and materials, but all kind of resources
  • It can highlight the skills available in the village – especially on sustainable solutions when building and/or renovating your house.
  • When a village like Torup is to expand with a lot of newcomers settling (as Hvideland), the platform can ensure easy access for newcomers to the “Village-bank” and to get an overview of options available, and inviting the newcomers to make use of the App will help the village to maintain culture and values and ensure cohesion.

How is the solution implemented?

  • Start with your needs – and how you want the App to solve this – Check that you stay on track
  • Ensure the inhabitants will be interested in borrowing tools and talents – and maybe also lending out, be tutor/handy-man?
  • Ensure you have tools or material that will be available to be part of a tool bank
  • Ensure if the inhabitants will be interested in using an App to access this – or they prefer an analogue system
  • Check if you have sufficient internet / mobile coverage

In what local context has it been applied?

The small village of Torup is situated on a peninsula between the sea and a fjord, 60 km to the northwest of Copenhagen. The village won the 2019 National Village of the Year award, largely based on the strong local tradition of self-organisation amongst the inhabitants.

Local people are active in organising a range of local initiatives and activities, including a parent-initiated school and kindergarten, a music festival, common meeting house, farmers’ markets, repair cafés, common village dinners, a commuter-hub with common office space, jazz concerts, alternative transport and a community building housing a café, bakery, and organic shop.

A group of motivated people who moved in 30 years ago to form a community based on organic principles were instrumental to some of these developments.. Over the years, this part of the village has turned into a highly attractive enclave and the most recent plans include an ambitious initiative to construct an additional 100 new eco-homes in the village and a Torup-wide smart and sustainable heating system based on solar-power.

The inhabitants of Torup already had a strong tradition of borrowing equipment and materials from one another, but sought to strengthen this facility with the development and implementation of a specific digital solution. The solution was also seen as an important step in supporting newcomers – many of whom are expected to be DIY-practitioners – in working on their new homes through the provision of existing skills and equipment from within the village.

Who was behind the implementation?

The local village organisation ‘Torup Ting’ and specifically a sub-group of Torup Ting members was the driving force behind the solution.

What was the local journey?

  • At several citizen meetings of Torup Ting, the idea emerged to use a digital tool to share resources. This aimed to maintain and pass on the sharing mindset in a way that was easier to use and easier to spread compared to the analogue system already in use.
  • A subgroup of Torup Ting prepared a requirement specification plan for the digital platform. (Action Fiche) which became known as the Tools & Talents App. The idea was to use the app to provide local people with access to local skilled people and shared tools to be housed in a village ‘tool bank’.
  • Supported by the national expert from the Smart Rural 21 project, the group then developed a more detailed timeline for preparation, development and implementation of the new app. The main points were:
  • Choice of platform for development
  • Application development
  • Content registration
  • Platform customisation
  • The group allocated some local funds for the development of the app and applied to a relevant national fund (Landdistriktspuljen).
  • The money was successfully received for both purchasing tools and employing a caretaker to be in charge of the physical tool-bank in the village.
  • The group recruited a private consultancy (Heino Consultancy) to develop the app.
  • Once developed as a prototype, the Torup Ting sub-group entered the data into the app about the various available local resources then tested the app in order to give feedback to the developer to correct and further customise the app. It has been very difficult to ensure inhabitants’ involvement in the development and testing beyond the members of the group.
  • Throughout the development process, there have been a lot of changes, which made it challenging to keep the development on track timewise. For instance:

    • the coverage approach was changed (limited to inhabitants of Torup only)
    • payment, privacy and conditions (allowing only locals to use the App)
    • The intention was to enable users to find, book and pay for specific tasks by locals with particular skills, but this was replaced with the simpler option of allowing locals to advertise their skills and provide contact details.

  • Once completed, the group will register the app and promote the app amongst local people to encourage its use.
  • There are still plans to include more functions in the App, such as the opportunity to sharing private owned tools/equipment via the App. Also car-sharing might be an option, where the SR-21 Expert has ensured opportunities for cooperation with a company of sharing cars.

What have been the main outputs & results?

  • The initiative has ensured funding enabling employment of one person (caretaker)
  • The initiative has also enabled the purchase of tools and equipment for the Tool-bank.
  • The app has not yet been rolled out to local people – so initial results are still pending.

What does it bring the village/community?

  • The purpose of the App fits with the sustainable tradition of the village – enabling them to strengthen/support even more the circular economy.
  • The app specifically aims to support new residents arriving to live in the 100 new eco homes – supporting them in their efforts and integrating them into the culture and traditions of the “old village”. By ensuring cohesion via the App it is the intention to spread the existing attractive traditions – bridging the social capital.

What’s needed

Financial resources

Main types of cost:

Set up / Investment costs: EUR 45,000, including:

• Preparing and developing the App

• Tool bank with suitable contents (renovation of the barn, some existing tools – some new )

• Registration of tools and profiling the service-providers

Ongoing costs include:

• Maintenance of bank (building) and tools – new and re-purchasing

• Caretaker (part-time)

• Annual fee for server and plug-in

• Annual expenses for programme service, back-up etc.

Financial needs:

Human resources

• A caretaker – overseeing the tool-bank and registering tools and talents

• A group of volunteers, that can help implement the App and test it over and over again. It is an advantage that the group is widely represented by both handy-men, tech savvy and newbies.

Physical resources

• Good internet / mobile coverage

• Physical tool bank with suitable contents

What to do…

  • Describe VERY clear what you want from this – and how you’ll benefit from it
  • Involve the inhabitants in defining and checking the development as you go along
  • Expectations reconciliation – to ensure roles and tasks are delegated in advance

and not to do

  • Don’t think an App can solve your problems (unless you describe /define them – and follow / check-up that ever so often)
  • Don’t be put off by the challenges. Torup has found that it is not easy, but it can be very rewarding.

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