Offers and Needs Markets: Partnership Communities in Action

March 18, 2021

By Emily Malkin

Offers and Needs Markets are a two-hour live process where participants make offers and express needs from their daily lives with other participants through a facilitated journey that culminates in a rich sharing of knowledge and resources.

When I first came across Offers and Need Markets, what excited me was the opportunity, although small scale, to start practicing an alternative and viable trading system. Theory has taught me that a post growth future, one in which we see much more emphasis on the human experience than on profit accumulation, is a vision for the future that rests on a foundation of partnership systems and values. If you take the time to search, there are peer to peer exchange systems already in place, in communities especially, but also held over social media groups and apps dedicated to partnership practices in action that include the recirculation of goods and the sharing of skills and services.

Although I participate in some of these trading and redistribution initiatives, for example freecycling, thrift shopping and foodsharing, Offers and Needs Markets have intrigued me like no other system. More than a quick scroll through Facebook or a post on an app, an Offers and Needs Market is an event: you have to show up. For most people that may be initially off-putting: do you really want to turn up to a two-hour event in the hope of attaining a set of plant pots, finding someone to fix your dishwasher or a new fitness buddy? Or even worse to walk away with nothing but to have committed to gardening for a neighbor or teaching a music lesson to someone in Australia? This doesn’t fit into our hyper-active, convenience-led lifestyles.

The medical professional was close to tears when this match was discovered. They said that this [exchange process] “restored my faith in humanity.”

What is perplexing is that, just like me, people keep showing up, and those who do join want to come back and even to learn how to facilitate and share the experience with others. What is it that makes this seemingly counterintuitive exchange process so engaging?

This is what I am seeking to answer in a very long academic paper I am writing on the subject, which I will now present here:

Just kidding.

I will however discuss one aspect which comes up again and again for participants and facilitators alike and is inspiring in its simplicity and beauty.

I’ll call it the element of surprise.

If you choose to enter an Offers and Needs Market for the first time, you really don’t know what to expect. And if you continue going to Offers and Needs Markets again and again, you still don’t know what to expect. Although the process may become more familiar, and you may even decide to enter markets with the same group over and over again, the offers made, and the needs expressed will differ every time; you never know what you are going to find. This can happen in multiple ways.

You may express a need, and find that someone, in this small intimate group, has the exact resources, skills or knowledge to fulfill that needs. This is the magic of partnership communities in action! And it can happen with the most unusual things. For me this has happened with some medical assistance I was seeking for a family member with budget constraints. In a group of five I found someone who is a medical professional that could help. The randomness of this encounter filled me with joy (I had prefaced my request with “I don’t know why I am asking this; it is such a niche request”). However, it was not me, the receiver, who was transformed by this experience. The medical professional was close to tears when this match was discovered. They said at the end that this “restored my faith in humanity.”

Another example of the power of the Offers and Needs Markets to surprise you is the potential to discover an opportunity which may have been previously closed or unknown to you. This happens when a participant makes an offer of something which you may never have considered in your life, but suddenly peaks your curiosity. Imagine this offer was access to a telescope or lessons in astronomy. A whole universe has just opened up to you. One grad student had recently moved to Bozeman, Montana for school and gained his driving license. Low and behold a fellow student had a well-loved Toyota Sierra minivan. In an act of almost unimaginable generosity, she gave him the van.

Finally, the Offers and Needs Market may just be the space where you learn something surprising about yourself. As participants dig deep to reflect upon what they can offer, many people are able to access profound understanding of their true value to others and their own self-image. Partnership-based relationships encourage mutual respect and empowerment. You may realize you have something to offer that you never knew existed.

This is what the Offers and Needs Markets has the potential to make possible.

Learn More: Offer and Needs

Partnerism: A socio-economic system that values and rewards caring for one another, nature, and our collective future.


Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash

Emily Malkin is a Master’s student of International Development writing her thesis on the Offers and Needs Markets process. Emily is interested in ideas around degrowth and post growth, circular economy, participatory governance, consumption reduction, redistribution, sociocracy, veganism, ethical travel and volunteering. She is associated with the Post Growth Institute.



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