The trouble with neighbourly lending is the inevitable caveat that borrowed items are often never returned. On the flipside, donation lacks an element of reciprocity with an added requirement of effort. The city of Geneva has found a healthy medium between getting rid of undesirable items and obtaining necessary things through a network of shareable exchange boxes, which they call Boîtes d’Échange Entre Voisins or Neighbourhood Exchange Boxes.
The idea, launched through a collaborative effort between public art organization Tako and the city of Geneva, invites people to leave and take items from the boxes at will. The boxes are decorated with unique artwork and can fit books, DVDs, and other moderately sized household objects. Over twenty have been incorporated throughout Switzerland, with more being added over the course of time at the request of residents in the area.
This concept combines elements of community, philanthropy, and practicality in a simple and low-maintenance fashion. It has generated largely positive recognition from residents who have found a range of items in their local exchange boxes, from toys to pedometers and even an Apple TV. The idea lends itself to a new conception of social interaction and casual material exchange within communities, encouraging social cohesion and positive connections amongst neighbours.