Spotlight TEDx Talk: How much do you use that power drill? Why we’re sharing tools with everyone in our city

From Aaron Krolikowski & Darren Cotton's TEDxBuffalo talk

From Aaron Krolikowski & Darren Cotton’s TEDxBuffalo talk

Something goes wrong in your house or apartment. The sink starts leaking; a tile cracks; a chair leg breaks. You fix it, but only after buying a cornucopia of tools you will probably use once a year at most, while the other 364-or-so days the once-necessary power drill and grout knife gather dust in a back cabinet.

In Buffalo, New York, urban planner Darren Cotton and policy researcher Aaron Krolikowski are obsessed with fixing this cycle of tool purchase-and-nonuse. To do so, they’ve created the University Heights Tool Library, a collection of tools encompassing everything from circular saws to screwdrivers, open to anyone in the city working on a project or fixing a problem.

The library, they explain in a talk at TEDxBuffalo, blossomed out of their own experiences with troublesome home repair and an interest in contributing to the budding sharing economy movement in Buffalo. “Central to the sharing economy is this idea of collaborative consumption,” Cotton says, “… the fact that multiple users can use the same good without actually having to own it.”

“It may seem a little startling that the average power drill is only used 12 minutes over its lifetime,” Cotton says, “… but what collaborative consumption allows us to do is scale up that 12 minutes to 1,200 or 12,000 minutes, used across hundreds of users on thousands of different projects in the community.”

tool library

(Photo: Aaron Krolikowski & Darren Cotton)

(Photo: Aaron Krolikowski & Darren Cotton)

(Photo: Aaron Krolikowski & Darren Cotton)

To stock the library, companies and citizens donate tools, which not only allows the library’s inventory to grow, but also gives the community a sense of ownership over the library, Krolikowski and Cotton say.

“The longer that we managed the tool library,” Krolikowski says, “the more we learned that the community was approaching the tool library from a completely different perspective [than what we expected] … We saw that when you give a tool or when you share a tool with an individual, they accomplish a task that they probably would have done anyway. But when you give a group of tools to a community, they start doing things that they couldn’t do before.”

For more on the library and other projects Krolikowski and Cotton work on together to crowdsource solutions for their community, watch their talk below:

Insight from the TEDx office — why we like this talk:

The speakers present their idea — that tapping into communities to share resources and ideas traditionally seen as the property of the single individual opens up new ways to solve entrenched problems in communities — in a way that is straightforward, engaging and supported by concrete examples. They share several projects they’ve created centered around this idea to anchor the idea in the real world, and give the audience the material to think on this idea further.

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