Christina Jaenicke talks to the Brixton-based brains behind wampom.com – a new online platform that connects individuals interested in learning new skills.
“It all started with the simple wish to learn some Spanish,” said Stefan Johnson, co-director at Mustard Design Agency. In 2011 he was looking for casual Spanish lessons in Lambeth. But rather than signing up for formal and, most importantly, expensive lessons, Stefan was wondering if there might be someone local who could offer him a few hours of their time.
Unlike most of us though, Stefan saw a project grow from this thought.
“What if I could return the favour and offer the same to someone else in an area of my own interest?” he wondered.
Then he started to ask himself, why limit such transactions to a two-way exchange? Why not create an entire network of people who are ‘selling’ their time to share their knowledge with one person and ‘cashing in’ that time with someone who has something else to offer?
Thus, the core concept of Wampom was born, by bringing time banking to another level. I asked him what’s new about it?
“No other time banking initiatives have combined the digital media and social entrepreneurial expertise that we have in house,” Stefan explains. By ‘we’, Stefan means the official co-founders Radu Palicica and Slavo Hitka as well as loyal supporter Erin Luke.
“People who will engage in such a project offer and want to learn tangible and creative skills. Being from Brixton, I know there are tons of people out there like me looking to learn something new or share their own knowledge without being restricted to a certain structure,” Stefan explains.
“We just need to light the match somewhere and watch the fire spread,” he states confidently, “and Brixton is so multi-cultural, there are so many interests, so many different backgrounds and age groups… what better place to start?”
On May 1st, Stefan and his team officially ‘lit the match’ with the launch of the website and only a few weeks later it already counts numerous members from all over London.
Of course, you will find the usual lessons for our language lovers – we do live in London after all. But how about some vehicle maintenance guidance, triathlon training, or Teeline shorthand lessons? Learn Economics in fun way! Who would have thought that’s possible? Take photography or Brazilian dance lessons, get introduced to Djing and Turntablism, or simply learn how to use WordPress and Illustrator properly.
So how does it work? You create a free user account and start browsing what other people have to offer. If you find something you like, then make sure you have some ‘money’ in your ‘time wallet’. and book it.
You get money in your time wallet by offering your first lesson. If you are unsure about your teaching abilities, to get you started the Wampom crew grants their original users 30 minutes each for filling out their profile, tweeting, liking it on facebook and, of course, adding the first lesson.
So, even if you are still out of sorts regarding that lesson, you will still have 1.5 hours to spare to book something and it might inspire and encourage you to share one of your skills you did not consider as valuable before.
So little by little, Wampom are seeking to make London a bit more creative one day at a time.
But this platform is also more about the community aspect of utilizing an online tool to encourage offline activities.
“Wampom encourages a much more informal way of meeting new people,” Stefan explains proudly.
On a final note, in case you are wondering how such concept can be reflected in the acronym WAMPOM, I can relieve you by saying it’s not. Wampom actually comes from the word “Wampum” describing small cylindrical beads made from polished shells formerly used by certain Native American peoples as currency. Great metaphor, unfortunately the right spelling was already taken.