Fighting for freerecyling

Separated by a common language

It is a cultural thing, but no matter how you cook it the breaking away, or not, of Freecycle UK from TFN is as important an event in the history of freecycling movement as you can imagine. Looking back to that fabled starting point, supposedly in Tucson, Arizona (though even that is debated by Deron Beal). A time when he could not refrain from sharing his bed bugs with all and sundry. His idea of freecyclin’ mushroomed across countries and across continents. One of the places it landed was England (or is that the UK, oh who cares)!

Well Deron Beal cares actually. He cares a lot because the UK conglomeration of freecycling groups is the Jewel In The Crown of what goes on. The UK has THE largest group – London, it has the largest density of the biggest and best freecycling groups – wordlwide. Okay, there are some other damned big groups around for example Vancouver is a hotbed of freecycling enthusiasts. But I am fond of my home territory, the 51st state as it has been dubbed on more than one occasion. So give me a bit of latitude here, or I should say longtitude and of the GMT form :-). Actually the UK has around 800 groups – that’s near on a 1/4 of all TFN’s groups, and most of them are very active.

Oh what fun language is. But I digress, or rather I do not. You see whatever way The Freecycle Network thinks is right in the USA it is never going to be right in the UK. And if it is not right here then the chances of getting it “right” in most other countries are pretty close to nil.

By getting it right I mean the super-culture of what TFN is. I don’t mean the basics of turning treasure into trash (which is something it is argued that TFN is doing to itself), such as offering, taking and so forth. I mean company culture. I mean ethos.

Right now there is a power struggle going on. You may not have heard much about it – because it is largely hush-hush. The big question is how will Freecycle UK relate to TFN after the breakup?

We do things differently over here. We have a more open UK ModSquad. We do not suppress debate. We do not suppress Free Speech. (I write this on a day when two of the most controversial people in the UK are allowed to speak at the Oxford Union. They are Nick Griffin and David Irving – read more on the BBC website.) We may not have a written constitution, we may get our first amendment mixed up with second or even third, but we allow controversy, providing it is legal.

There are many other aspects of how we in the UK do things differently. For freecyclers using freecycling as a verb or an adjective is one such treasure. The bottom line is that Freecycle UK is spearheading a large fracture in The Freecycle Network. If the fracture is “succesfull” then TFN loses its jewel what does it have left?

I would argue that it has a future. Strange huh! TFN tried to be an international organisation. It has failed. Yes groups go easily across country and continental boundaries, but culture does not. Neither does funding.

If the UK is set to raise funds then the last thing that should happen is that those funds suddenly find their way to support efforts in the USA. And I am sure Deron does not want hard fought USA funds being spread across many countries.

The future that Freecycle UK is carving out for itself is a piece of history. This, if done successfully will define the shape of freecycling for many years. It will allow the concepts and the movement to grow and yet halt the controlling dogma that TFN has, until now, felt as a right it could indoctrinate the world with.

It is a defining moment because it will (okay, could) define a superior model of how freecycling will propagate from here on out. That is that each country needs its own parent body. That TFN does not rule how each country’s groups behave. Only the parent body does that.

Right now the only “company” for TFN outside its Arizonian parent is Freecycle UK – a registered charity. If that vehicle is a good vehicle for the future then other countries could follow suit.

Right now the UK part of TFN is rewriting many of the “folksy” bits out of the documentation and making sense – from a UK perspective of such things as the moderator’s manual.

Where will it end? Will Deron have the good grace to let go of the leash and enable England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – the countries that make up this Kingdom to truly grow.

We stand on the sidelines – and watch – with baited interest.


November 26, 2007 - Posted by | freecycle

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