Communter (a grassroots alternative to Uber)

Communter (Community and Unter playing off Uber, but emphasizing support from underneath not above) is designed to facilitate non-commercial support within a community, beginning with help transporting the elderly to libraries, shops, medical appointments, and concerts, but extending in whatever ways the community members invent (e.g., designing a permaculture plot for a household, providing company in the form of sitting with the person, gardening together, etc.)

(This proposal arose as a “Design sketch” on Case 4 of Design for Living Complexities: What would it look like for a community to integrate the elderly into community life and enable their full participation? How would the transition to there from where we are now be organized?)

People convey a need via an app or, for people without a smartphone, via a toll-free number (where someone, funded by the community, communicates with the app).  People who have spare time use the app (or the toll-free number) to indicate that they can respond to that need.

The reward for the responder is credits, which can be used to cover future needs or contributed to a community bank.  If the person with needs has no credits, they can access the bank.  Bonus credits (drawn from the bank) are gained for cross-generational help.  Credits can be transferred freely (not for $$) among community members.

Responder ratings allow requesters to judge the reliability of responders.  Requester ratings allow responders to decide if the requester might be an over-user of the system.

Communter could be jump started by enlisting community organizations—from Rotary to Scouts, Reevaluation counseling to Permaculturalists—who might, say, compete for the most credits earned in the first year or the greatest range of needs met.


About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (

5 Responses to Communter (a grassroots alternative to Uber)

  1. July 27, 2016 Hospitals are obliged if they have non-profit status to undertake health-enhancing projects in their community. Suppose that for-profit corporations were likewise obliged, as part of receiving approval to be incorporated, if their wealth (capitalization) increases rapidly or goes above some level ($500 million). Perhaps part of the status given to entrepeneurship in the innovation economy would then go to people who are smart enough to see ways of using their smarts to enable.

  2. July 27, 2016 Perhaps every transaction could be accompanied by a story told by each party. Not so much Moth stories of setback and redemption (or other big punch line), but stories that by telling lessen their power over us (b/c we’re embarrassed) or that impart something across generations (so old aren’t so puzzled by young and vice versa) or… Perhaps the story doesn’t register for the listener right away, but it is interesting as I get older what comes up in my memories…

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