In a world where money is in shorter supply than talent, there is an opportunity for a sharing economy to flourish – not only in terms of goods and possessions, but also skills. Dominique Swiegers went in search of her share

At primary school we used to play marbles during breaks. As soon as the bell rang we’d dash outside and then the battle was on. With faces flushed from concentrating so hard, dust clouds gathering around us and ponytails askew, we were lost in our own world. But the real fun started when you won. Because then you could swap your prize marbles for even fancier ones. Their breathtaking colours and great names – comets, cat’s eyes, bumblebees, gquftis – made them very popular. I think that was probably the first time I experienced a sharing economy of sorts.

Sharing economies have changed a lot over time, largely thanks to technology. Platforms like the Cape Town Talent Exchange (CTTE) at is one of the largest online communities in the world to operate based on a sharing system. For example, it lets a hairstylist and someone who does garden services come to a mutually beneficial arrangement where they can say: ‘I trim your hair, you trim my lawn.’

Both parties benefit from this deal because each one has their own unique talents and skills, as well as tools and equipment. In both cases their wallets can remain safely stowed and firmly shut because there is no money involved. The entire transaction can be conducted online without the need for you to go and ‘sell’ yourself or your services.

In her TED Talk entitled ‘The case for collaborative consumption’ Rachel Botsman (a leading expert and author on trust in the modern world) highlights this trend with her idea of shared ownership or shared use – where people can share or swap without money changing hands, thanks to social networks and online communities. It goes even further with people also sharing time and skills. Rachel believes that the internet has cut out the middleman and now everyone from a T-shirt designer to a seamstress can deal directly with one another. She believes this economy, based on the belief system that ‘what’s mine is yours and vice versa’, is here to stay.

Another online platform, the Community Exchange System (, neatly sums up this trend, saying: ‘Your talents are your wealth.’ It’s all based on the belief that each of us has a special talent – whether you’re just starting out or already retired, have a Master’s degree or no training at all. It really doesn’t matter because all you need is to be good at something. That’s why this trend also builds and strengthens communities. Someone recently showed me the CV of a man who was handing them out at a traffic light. The attention to detail and the amount of trouble that he’d gone to in order to put this document together were enough to melt the coldest heart of a potential employer. It makes one wonder what would happen if he offered his services on something like CTTE.

Rachel identifies four factors that play an important role in this new swapping economy: a fresh appreciation of the importance of community; the power of social networks; renewed urgency and interest in environmental issues; and global recession.

People are tired of wastage. Money, talents, belongings, time… Why let things gather dust on shelves or in cupboards when they could be useful to another person? For example, groups like Crop Swop on Facebook arrange to get together and swap out excess food from their kitchens, or fruit and vegetables from their gardens. On one of the photos on their Facebook page there’s a box of grapefruit with the message: ‘Take what you need, leave what you don’t, share what you have.’

I did an informal survey by asking the hairdresser at my local salon what she’d be interested in if she had the opportunity to swap. She immediately said she’d be keen to collaborate with a good cook who would be willing to share a few of their favourite recipes with her. A photographer friend of mine said she’d be happy to take family portraits in exchange for having her hair coloured. A graphic artist said they’d design a logo and all they wanted was a manicure. None of them were aware of the existence 
of CTTE or anything like it.

Even if you’re not sure what your talent might be, you can go in search of it and that journey in itself could become an enjoyable and enlightening experience. As it was for Ken Robinson, a leader in the field of creativity and innovation, who says, ‘Human resources are like the earth’s natural resources; they’re often buried beneath the surface and you have to make an effort to discover them.’ The swapping of talents reminds me of the rhinoceros and the oxpecker. One gets food and the other is rid of pesky insects. With the South African population topping 50 million, just think of all the mutually rewarding relationships and talents – not to mention marbles! – we could all be exchanging. 

  • The ‘seller’ is usually the one who should keep a record of the transaction.
  • If the seller isn’t computer literate, the ‘buyer’ can conclude the deal on the mobisite 
  • If someone contacts you for a possible transaction, make sure you know exactly what they are offering.
  • Ensure that you regularly tweak your offering or add to it, so it will be tagged with that day’s date and is then listed under ‘Recent Posts’.

HOW TO TRADE TALENTS AND SAVE MONEY HOW TO TRADE TALENTS AND SAVE MONEY Reviewed by Zandile Xabendlini on October 12, 2020 Rating: 5
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