Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Relationships are Key!

I am a bridesmaid for a wedding later this summer, and as all bridesmaids, I have to find a dress to wear.  Fortunately, my friend (the bride) is letting us choose our own dresses, so long as they fit certain criteria.  

My dilemma?  I can't find a dress.  At least not one that I really like.  Well...that is not entirely true.  I can't find one that I like that I can also afford (there are plenty gorgeous dresses to choose from outside of my price range).  So, I have a few options: one, I can keep shopping and hope to find something both special and affordable; two, I can use the black dress I already have hanging in my closet, even though I don't love it (but it would be very resourceful of me); three, I could visit a large boutique I like to call "my friends' closets" and see if they have something I could wear.

This last option, the "friends' closets" is a small example of a key component of the SHEconomy.  I like to call it the "relational economy." 

The relational economy is essentially a good old-fashioned barter system.  It begins with a need: a black dress, an errand, a chore, a service.  I take this need to my relational network--my friends and family--instead of running out to the store.  If a friend can and is willing to meet my need, she does.  And of course I return the favor if she needs something, today or down the road.  

Sounds simple, right?  In fact, I bet most of you are already doing this.  Borrowing, trading, swapping.  We women are good at it.  And we could be even better at it with a little bit of organization.  Imagine if you had a list of the skills, talents, and offerings of your friends and neighbors, and could use that information to be a "bartering matchmaker."  Or maybe you aren't the matchmaking type, and would prefer to host a get-together where everyone pitched in to make trades and connections.  Or maybe you are really savvy online and have the ability to set up an informal "swap meet" online and invite friends and neighbors to visit.  

And what are the benefits of setting up a relational economy?  Well, the most obvious to me is that needs can be met without using money.  Our "currency" in this economy is our relationships.  Secondly, it gives us opportunities to share our lives with other women.  And it provides a system for us to showcase our talents while appreciating those of our friends.  Finally, it gives us a chance to serve women in need, building up that safety net that I've been talking about so much.  

I am excited to start working on some resources for those of you who would like to explore a "relational economy" among your friends, starting with how to throw a "relational economy" party (I'll call it something cooler, I promise).  Of course, there's no need to wait for me!  Start swapping today with friends, or take your bartering to the next level if you already have some swapping taking place.  And please--email me with your stories.  I'd to hear them!

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