Artist Starts 'Somerville Stock Exchange' to Promote Good Deeds
Tim Devin hopes the stock exchange metaphor will inspire people to invest in the community.
It's called the Somerville Stock Exchange, and it trades in volunteer work, charitable giving and community spirit as opposed to monetary profits.
It's the brainchild of local artist Tim Devin, who feels many people in Somerville are doing unheralded small things every day to make the city a better place. With his stock exchange project, Devin hopes to shed light on people's good deeds and raise money for charity at the same time.
Alana Kumbier, a Union Square resident who's earned shares on the Somerville Stock Exchange, talked about doing things like picking up trash on your street or being a good recycler."[The] stock exchange encourages us to think about these things … as part of a larger effort," she said.
It's a "metaphor," said Devin, 36, who works as a librarian at a local grad school during the day, about the stock exchange.
Normally, people's efforts are often "hidden" or "anonymous," he said. His goal with the Somerville Stock Exchange is to "share the positive things they're doing, and it can be inspiring for people."
Part community art project, part fundraiser: how it works
Residents can earn shares on the stock exchange by participating in community events, volunteering or donating to one of three Somerville charities focusing on arts, the environment and helping the homeless (Devin may add more charities later).
Dave Taber, from Duck Village, earned shares by volunteering as an ESL teacher in the city.
For his efforts, he received a certificate of stock from Devin. "It's kind of like getting an award, but anyone can do it," Taber said, noting it gives him a sense of contributing to make Somerville a better place.
"If it catches on ... it has a potential to be really inspiring to people. Just a little encouragment," he said.
People who do volunteer work, participate in community events or otherwise help out can email firstname.lastname@example.org to earn shares.
A giant metaphor
Devin chose the idea of the stock exchange as a metaphor. "You put things in, you get things out. That's like a community, too," he said.
With the Somerville Stock Exchange, the purpose of earning stock is to get some recognition for your efforts, to raise awareness of people's good deeds and to get people talking about helping out in the community, Devin said.
There's no way to redeem your stocks in the traditional sense, and in that way "It's basically like a game," Devin said.
As Kumbier said, "It's a way to pay attention to things that we're already doing for our community that we're not thinking about in community terms."
Stocks go up, stocks go down
As part of the metaphor, every two weeks the value of stocks will rise and fall, serving as a sort of gauge of how things are going in Somerville.
Launched at the end of March, the current value of stocks have already increased.
"Community" stocks are currently trading at $2.11 a share, up 43 percent from mid-April. Environment stocks are at $3.24 a share (up 47 percent) and arts stocks are at $3.92 a share (up 37 percent).
Devin decides how the stocks are doing. The price of community stocks recently came down due to tension surrounding a proposed affordable housing development in Union Square, he said. "Just that level of tension is a bad thing, so that caused the stock to drop a bit," he said, adding he doesn't intend to inject his own opinions into stock prices.
Devin has also started a blog on Somerville Patch where he will talk about how stocks are doing and highlight what's been going on with the Somerville Stock Exchange. His first post came out May 2.
Devin is no stranger to community projects in Somerville. He was in the news in 2011 for a project called "BBC Broadsides" in which he posted around the city printouts of various statistics and questions designed to spark conversation in the community.
To learn more about the Somerville Stock Exchange, visit the website.
You can see more of Devin's projects at his website.