Greater Bendigo residents are the first in the world to have access to the new bHive Villages online sharing platform.

Villages has been created in Bendigo to enable groups of neighbours to build a sense of belonging, to foster neighbourhood mutual aid and to share access to stuff and skills. With Villages, users can share tools, furniture, veggies, fruit, their time, skills and meals. Users can message privately, post publicly, set up events and plan things together.

It is anticipated that as well as building community engagement, the platform will also benefit users financially and help to reduce consumption.

Users of Villages, known as Villagers, set up their own personal online Village. They can add people who live within 1-2 kms of their house to their Village (as long as they consent). Villagers can also add friends from across Bendigo. These people will see each other’s posts, shared items and events. With Villages, privacy is paramount – users control who they do and don’t connect with and there will be no advertising, no selling of data and no bots (fake people).

Villagers can set up and join Community Groups that operate across Bendigo. This could be the Toy Library, Bendigo Foodshare and the Bendigo Sustainability Group or interest groups like yarn bombers, gardeners or a card playing club. Within these groups Villagers can post, message, set up events and plan things together.

“We want to create an epidemic of belonging,” said Ian McBurney, bHive Executive Director. “Pre-COVID there was a large number of people for whom loneliness and social isolation was a big problem, which has a huge impact on our health and wellbeing. I think we’ve all had a taste of this over the past 6 months. Villages is an online tool that brings us together. The early 2000s research by the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies shows that having strong connections in our local community is better for our health than giving up smoking, alcohol and fat and adds ten years to lifespan. Relationships built over the side fence and up the street can last a lifetime. We need to be together.”

“bHive is a local co-operative. We own it together and run it together. All the value stays in Bendigo. We’d love Bendigo people to join us and become members owners of bHive.”

The Villages platform has attracted a good deal of interest from communities worldwide and there are plans for it to be rolled out nationally in 2021.

“We’re going to use Villages platform subscriptions to pay people in each local place to spend the time setting up their own local replica bHive Cooperative,” said Mr McBurney.  “We think that’s a pretty innovative co-op incubation model. Our plan is to bring Bendigo on board and test our marketing/comms/engagement plans and then open up around Australia in February.”

The bHive Villages platform has been built with funding received from the very first Bendigo Great Ideas innovation grant in 2019, supported by Fosterville Gold Mine.

To find out more about bHive Villages and other bHive elements visit the bHive website.

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