1. Why Are We Sharing?

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As discussed in Chapter 1, people decide to share for many different reasons: to save money, time, or the environment; to build community; to lighten their load and responsibilities; to simplify their lives; and so on. Your sharing group can work well even if members are motivated by different goals. In fact, that's the beauty of sharing: It allows you to meet the needs of a diverse group with one activity or arrangement.

Talking about why each member wants to share is a great way to start your discussion about how your group will work. Many of the decisions you'll need to make—about cost, obligations, use of the shared item, and more—will largely depend on each member's motivation for sharing. Talking about these goals will help prevent potential misunderstandings later and, as the group evolves, ensure that everyone remains sensitive to the various needs and interests of group members.

EXAMPLE: Alva and Bobbie decide to go ahead with their carshare; they invite their friend Carolina to join them, too. Alva is doing it to save money. Bobbie is trying to be green and take part in more sustainable transportation practices. Carolina is in it for the free parking in Alva's garage. Without fully understanding the motivations of the other two car-sharers, Bobbie assumes that everyone is doing it to save the planet. She gets an estimate from a local mechanic to convert the car's engine to accommodate biodiesel. Alva protests that this will be too expensive. Carolina is not pleased because the biodiesel station is too far away. Bobbie is shocked and goes on a tirade about offshore oil drilling, and everyone is left feeling bitter. Had the three fully communicated their goals at the outset, they could have made decisions that better accommodated everyone's needs.

Discussing values at the outset might also lead a group to see that its members are incompatible—a discovery that is much easier to make at the beginning of a venture or project than after you are mired in the middle.

If you want, you can put your motivations in writing. Writing down your goals can help you clarify—for yourself and the rest of the group—what you hope to get out of the deal. It also provides a touchstone for later decisions and a context for those who may join the group later. These types of statements are often written in the "recitals" portion of a contract: an introductory paragraph or two that explains how or why the agreement came into being.

EXAMPLE: Five friends rent a house together to create a household with shared values. In their cotenant agreement, they write:

"We have decided to form a group house in order to create a healthy and supportive living environment. We all value clear and open communication. We also hope to support each other in adopting lifestyles that do less harm to the planet, by sharing resources, using goods that are sustainably produced, and conserving energy, water, and other natural resources."

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