Why start FIMBY?
After living in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver for the past 14 years, I’ve experienced firsthand how Christians can live in close proximity and not know one another. I’ve always seen such potential for community and yet it has never coalesced into something tangible. FIMBY is my attempt to help Christians find the family in their backyard, and live into their shared values together.
What will FIMBY do?
- Build Local Connections: As our world continues its journey into the cloud (online-computing) where screens mediate the majority of our interactions, we are less and less grounded in real-world social networks based on our geographic area (neighbourhood). We have become a commuter culture (on and offline) where we travel distances to make & maintain connections. Our friends and family are spread across cities and countries while we often don’t know or care for our neighbours in the house next door. We need tools to help meet, build trust and care for those in our own neighbourhoods.
- Highlight Needs: Given the siloed nature of our social circles, we likely would never know that our neighbour’s dryer broke down, or that they had to miss work to care for a sick child, or ask them if we could borrow a shovel cause we dont own one. We have somehow lost the ability to rely on those closest to us (our neighbours) because we don’t know each other or have an easy way to share our needs with them. Knocking on someone’s door and asking them for help directly these days can feel intimidating / imposing. We need tools that can help us let others know when we need help, and give them the opportunity to meet our needs.
- Share Resources: Similarly to the unknown needs, we also are unaware of the resources available to us in our own neighbourhoods. Tools, goods, food, talents, skills, etc. We need tools to let others know what we have to offer, and if we do, things are much less likely to go to waste.
- Slow Climate Change: Climate change is here and having a profound impact on weather patterns (fires / floods / droughts) worldwide. These changes have a direct impact on the well-being of countless people, and disproportionately those on the margins who do not have the means to mitigate its impact. Our unbridled consumption in the western world continues to drive demand for goods and the industries that make and transport those goods. We need tools to help us share, reuse and repurpose what we already have locally so we consume less.
- Prioritize Accessibility: Current platforms are generally designed for those who have access to the internet and own a smartphone or laptop. If you don’t have these prerequisites you are cut off from access. We need tools that allow everyone to participate regardless of their tech abilities or access to the internet. We need tools that not only allow us to meet our own needs but help us meet the needs of others as well.
- Establish Local Ownership: Most existing platforms (facebook, google, craigslist etc) are owned by large corporations which are interested in generating profits through subscriptions and ads while providing a service. This means that systems are designed to be universal (meet the most common needs), and promote screen time filled with advertisements. All while local communities have little control over how they could be adapted to help their neighbourhood flourish, or have content/processes governed at the local level. We need a tool that is developed by the people who use it, and governed by those people so it remains relevant, focussed, useful, safe, and effective.
How can FIMBY help?
- Kick-start real-world connections Getting to know our neighbours is hard, but creating an online forum is a proven means for people to connect. FIMBY can help kick-start this process which then carries on in the real world on porches and doorsteps throughout the neighbourhood.
- Simplify Logistics Building a local sharing economy is complicated, and if people are going to participate it needs to be easy, and effective. FIMBY’s goal is to create a platform that streamlines how people log and respond to each other, as well as alert them when they need to take action. No endless questionnaires, confusing interfaces or needless refreshing of screens to know if someone responded. FIMBY does the heavy logistical-lifting and you enjoy the benefits of a vibrant community-life in your neighbourhood.
- Foster a ‘We’ not ‘Me’ Culture Western culture by nature is individualistic, FIMBY looks to help us break out of that mentality by allowing individuals to not only surface their own needs or resources but surface the needs and resources of others within the community and beyond. Neighbourhoods can decide together what their collective needs or concerns are and surface solutions for everyone so others can respond.
- Track our individual and collective impact Sometimes we can feel hopeless because we have no way to see or feel how our individual actions are having any impact on the large problems we face: climate change, racism, inequality, poverty, social isolation etc. By coordinating our efforts in one place we can start to track our efforts collectively and see in quantitative ways how we as a neighbourhood are making an impact.
Why not use Facebook Marketplace, Next Door, Craigslist or Go Fund Me, etc? We already have tools, why do we need another?
- Corporate Ownership: These platforms are not owned by the local users, and so those local users have very little say in how they are designed. Features that are the most important to a particular community may not be developed because they conflict with potential profit (like lending libraries). Additionally, the ability to curate content and membership rosters is also centralized, and policies that set these boundaries are not drafted by the members of the community they are meant to protect.
- Funded by Advertising: Most free platforms require users to navigate through various advertisements which businesses pay to post on those sites. Christians should not have to run through a secular ‘advertising gaunlet’ to live into their values. Instead, FIMBY plans to use a pay to play model where individual users and / or major donors help underwrite the cost of development, maintenance, and hosting of the platform so like a credit union or coop, the system is owned by its constituents, and not designed to generate profit.
- Guiding Principles: At its core, FIMBY seeks to facilitate the principles described in the Book of Acts (chapters 2 & 6) where leaders in the early church tasked Saint Stephen and a team people to redistribute the resources that had been brought by other members of the church to be shared with those in need. FIMBY hopes to help us as we aspire to these ideals where no member of our community goes without.
Where is FIMBY?
To start, FIMBY will pilot in the DTES / Strathcona neighbourhood of Vancouver (V6A and surrounding areas). If the pilot goes well we hope to expand to other neighbourhoods, and ultimately to other cities across Canada and the US.
Who can join FIMBY?
- FIMBY is a closed network, meaning it is not publicly available for unsolicited self-service signups. Membership requires that you reside within the defined geographic area, and be invited and vouched for by an existing member or be affiliated to a local church or charity. Given the high degree of trust and vulnerability a sharing economy requires, it’s important that each new neighbour we invite is known to one of us well and can be trusted to uphold the common good alongside their own personal interests.
- Current users can surface a need or resource for a person / group who does not use FIMBY. This will allow FIMBY to benefit those who are not yet members and those who struggle to navigate the online world or have limited means to do so.
Who are we (the people partnering to make FIMBY happen)?
We are the Strathcona Vineyard. A small missional church working in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver since 2005, living out the words and works of Jesus together.
Who developed FIMBY?
My name is Stephen Rathjen.
For the past 14 years I have devoted my life to living in solidarity with my neighbors in the Downtown Eastside neighborhood of Vancouver, which is recognized as one of Canada’s poorest urban areas. During the day, I work as a technology consultant 4 days a week, and have had the privilege of collaborating with over 75+ nonprofits, helping them harness innovative tools and processes to further their missions. Currently, I am a Solution Architect at Salesforce.
For the past 7 years, I have been humbled to serve on the board of a small local missional church, Strathcona Vineyard. I hold the conviction that God’s love, manifested in the relationships between people, is the most transformative force in our world. As a gay and affirming individual, I have a heart for addressing and reconciling divisive issues among Christians, such as abortion, politics, race, and sexuality. To this end, I have found a loving home in a non-affirming denomination and hope to see Christians in each parish work together as a single family unit, moving beyond silos and divisions, guided by the Apostle Paul’s call for unity in 1 Corinthians 1:10.
On Fridays, which I have affectionately named “FIMBY Fridays”, I use the time that would normally go into a full time job and put it towards developing the FIMBY project.