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= Lend and borrow each other's everyday objects, skills and spaces with confidence


"Ecomodo has a much broader remit. Its strapline is: 'Lend and borrow each other's everyday objects, skills and spaces with confidence.' In practice this means a dizzying array of listed items: games consoles, clothes, inflatable mattresses, use of a house once owned by Ronnie Corbett, IT advice, instruction on how to cook a fish stew. Many people list their possessions and time for free – in a local search we found people offering a power drill, a djembe drum, a 27in TV, gardening services, hypnotherapy and a tuxedo at no cost.

With such a wide range of services, we asked Ecomodo's co-founder, Tracy Currer, how the company goes about maintaining trust between its users: "On joining, people get a friends circle, so when they invite friends, they'll automatically join their friends circle. Then they can join other circles or create their own. These can be based around a neighbourhood, school, workplace or any kind of community group. Users can choose to borrow from or lend to anybody on the site, only people in their circles or just a specific circle."

This helps people feel more confident about lending, either because they know the other person, or because they know that they're the sort of person who will use the item responsibly. For example, someone might choose to lend some photography equipment only to a photography circle so he or she will know the borrowers will be proficient in using it.

A circle is moderated by the person who set it up, and there are three types. Completely open circles are great for neighbourhoods, because most people don't know their neighbours' email addresses. Semi-private circles are for when someone wants a little bit more control, such as for a photographers' circle or one associated with a school. People can only request to join these, and the moderator controls the gateway to come in. Completely private lending circles are by invitation only, and might be for a couple of schools or businesses who just want to share resources between each other.

"We wanted to put out a very flexible tool, see any patterns and understand how people want to use it," explains Currer. "Recently we had a lending circle for council staff for stuff that's lying around the offices, to make sure it's being used and not needlessly being bought in by another department."

There's also a comprehensive set of mechanisms in place to avoid and resolve problems. When a lender adds an item, he or she can opt to have a deposit taken, which is held by Ecomodo until both parties have left feedback to say they are happy. The lender can opt for insurance, paid for by the borrower, which covers theft and damage for objects worth £50 to £1,500. There's also a pro forma contract between the lender and the borrower, which helps negate liability from the lender in the event of personal injury." (