Buy Nothing Project Private Groups
Growth Options
This document includes some text from the Buy Nothing founders and text created by other Buy Nothing Project volunteers on behalf of the Buy Nothing Project.

Growth Options
As Buy Nothing groups on various social media platforms get larger and approach the 800 - 1,000 participant mark, it’s generally time to select a growth option. This document provides information gained through years of Buy Nothing Project experience and exponential growth. There is no single option for growth that applies to every Buy Nothing community around the world. In this document we provide you with information about the most commonly-used approaches to accommodate community growth, and their pros and cons.

Sprouting, the Inclusive & Scalable Model
Sprouting is the term developed within the Buy Nothing Project to describe the process through which a large Buy Nothing group transforms into smaller, more hyperlocal gift economies. Sprouting has long been the course of action taken as groups get so large they lose their community feeling and start to experience predictable big group problems. We have learned that sprouting can, at times, reinforce historic lines of segregation. Sprouting into new separate private groups can also damage existing friendships and lead to feelings of loss, isolation, and exclusion. We took these things into account when we designed our independent BuyNothing app. When your private group grows too large to function well, you can grow with our app in ways that build upon your existing connections while also including new people. Our BuyNothing app is both inclusive and scalable, and has custom Buy Nothing features that aren't available on any other platform. Here's a page that walks through the benefits of this approach (and it's also a post you can share with your group).

Sprouting, the Private Group Model
If you'd like to keep using the private group model provided by other platforms such as Facebook, contact us here to get your new groups set up. But before you sprout this way, please do research within your community about whether there has been gentrification and any historic redlining there. Please listen to your neighbors and their suggestions, ideas, and especially any concerns they have about splitting your group up into what may feel to anyone like a segregated neighborhood. This has never been the goal of Buy Nothing Project gift economies and we encourage you to network within your community to find informed people who can help define the most inclusive community giving groups possible.

Pros of Private Groups
  • Allows groups to become more intimate and smaller in footprint which reduces drive time and allows more neighbor to neighbor connections
  • Keeps group numbers low so as to increase chances for member to member connections
  • Can help in situations where the group footprint is too large to create community even if the number of group members is not close to 1,000
Cons of Private Groups
  • Separates members who may have made connections in the larger, pre-sprout group
  • Given that some neighborhoods were historically created to divide different groups of people, it can at times be difficult to draw smaller group boundaries that don’t reinforce those divisions.
  • Finding enough admins to step up and admin all the groups may be a challenge.

Alternative to Sprouting: Capping
Capping is the process through which a Buy Nothing group is closed to new participants, while “sibling” groups are set up to serve the same shared area. This allows everyone in an area to join a Buy Nothing group that has a functional number of members, bringing people together from a larger geographic area.

  • Keeps the larger geographical footprint of the original local Buy Nothing group. This can allow a more diverse group of people instead of breaking communities into small groups are homogenous.
  • Can be a good alternative if sprouting would repeat historical redlining or other forms of segregation and division..
  • Keeps the original Buy Nothing group members intact and allows those connections to continue to grow and provides new Buy Nothing groups for new participants to form the same sort of uninterrupted connections.
  • If the original group footprint was large, members will continue to travel the longer distances (no reduction in travel time or pollution).
  • If capping takes place after a group becomes too large to function well, this step will not address the size-related community issues quickly (it can take a long time for a group to drop in size when participants move away, etc slowly)
  • Group admins can move the status of their capped group from “closed to new participants” to “open to new participants” as space becomes available over time. Communicating this to the wider community can be a challenge.

Alternative to Sprouting: Groups of 1,000+ members
Another option is to just keep growing the group. While we have listed 1,000 members in this option, there isn’t a magical number of members that creates issues. Group activity level, average number of posts per day, can be a better gauge of how busy the group is.
  • Some members may feel that there is more of a chance to get stuff in a larger group
  • No-shows increase
  • Posts get lost and people need help finding that person who needed that one thing, or people lose their own posts
  • Miscommunications increase as members just skim things instead of having time to read them all
  • It can feel overwhelming to members to be in a group with such a busy feed. Some members may stop posting or post less.
  • It’s harder to recognize names and make connections when there are so many people to connect with.

Overlapping Groups
Groups may overlap their footprint, in whole or in part, with another group.

  • Allows members or admins unhappy with the way an existing group is being run to create a new group that embodies the aspects of the Buy Nothing Project they feel are being lost in the shuffle.
  • Not all cities and towns are planned in ways that make determining a gift economy’s footprint easy. Overlapping part of a group may help to allow residents there to pick the community that makes the most sense for them.
  • Could allow for one larger group with several smaller groups within it. This could mean people could choose if they wanted the larger group with access to more people and perhaps stuff, or if they wanted the smaller community feel.
  • Groups that totally overlap are often started because of differences between admins. There may be hurt/angry/frustrated feelings on both sides. Please remember that just because someone else doesn’t like the way your group is run, that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. You may just have different methods, goals, or personalities.
  • If created in response to a sprout that a member or local admin doesn’t want to happen, an overlapping group may create some confusion, but we’ve seen groups with parallel footprints coexist in communities perfectly well.