The Offers and Needs Market

Picture of Offers and Needs Market Example from WDS 2018

Do you have a group who tends to see the glass as half empty or struggles with their confidence? Do you need a meaningful way to bring together 5-500 people? Do you just enjoy writing on sticky notes or learning about the surprising gifts we all have inside?

The Offers and Needs Market (OANM) is ideal for this and so much more!

Imagine a mashup between mutual aid, making fast friends, and Craigslist. That's the OANM – a joyful, guided process where groups come together to discover and exchange their passions, knowledge, skills, resources, and needs. Whether for free, barter, or a set rate, people offer and need things like tech help, a place to live, project partners, or some extra produce.

The OANM unearths and shares the diverse forms of wealth we all have, and reminds us that so much of what we need for a good life is already within our grasp. Participants have found work, housing, new friends, a richer self-identity, and even a renewed trust in their community.

Each exchange builds a connection, more connections create meaningful relationships, and the collective relationships strengthen communities – and maybe even create new ones.

It's also a way to practice Asset-Based Community Development as you focus on what resources (a.k.a. “assets”) a group already has. The OANM is a simple, playful, and cheerful way to highlight what people can already do, and provides a positive way to short-circuit the “But … we don’t have any resources!” narrative.

The emphasis is on creating and sustaining a mindset of what you can do to help – and get helped – right now.

The Process


Offers and Needs Market Process Infographic (Offline)


Offers and Needs Market Process Infographic (Online)

How an OANM Helps and Creates Communities

  • It builds and enhances personal or group connections. Knowing who's doing what, who has access to what, and who knows who are vital for a sustainable sense of belonging.
  • It creates new possibilities for co-created action that none of us can do alone.
  • It's just plain fun and useful. Who couldn't use a new accountability buddy, creative pro, or ukulele player in their life? (All real examples among thousands more.)
  • It allows for rapid feedback on creative, business, or other projects. Having a few folks give you sincere, real-time input on your offers can be life-changing.
  • It reduces waste. When someone else’s surplus or gift can become another’s resource, fewer precious commodities like time go to waste.
  • It increases community ownership and commitment since it requires active participation and shifts the group narrative to what's abundant from what's scarce.
  • It builds confidence to ask for what you truly need and own the gifts you're meant to share.
  • It’s a simple, fast, and inexpensive way to resource a movement because it focuses on what already exists – people's hidden or underused gifts.
  • It honors the best of gift, barter, and commercial exchanges. Why settle for only one type of market when you can have three in one?

“I love Offers and Needs Markets! It's so much bundled into one: community-building, vulnerability, sharing resources, owning up to our own depths, and the generous use of sticky notes. We all inherently want to help, so giving and receiving with an intentional, organized process allows us to contribute and gain without it feeling transactional. This is just genuine and heartfelt.”

Aja Marsh

OANM Participant

How to Run It

I've facilitated many OANMs over the years and my process has been thoroughly field tested by other OANM facilitators. Here's where you get all the hard-won insight I've gained, right away, and continue your journey to bring people together around their unique gifts.


Joel Hugging It Out at an Offers eeds Market

(Want to customize the guide? Here's the source file for you to edit however you like!)


Joel Hugging It Out at an Offers eeds Market

(Want to customize the guide? Here's the source file for you to edit however you like!)

What Now?

Picture of Offers and Needs Market Example from WDS 2018

If you'd like me to potentially run an OANM for your community, feel free to contact me.

If you want to go to the original source of all things OANM, I highly recommend Post Growth Institute's OANM focused site.

The Offers and Needs Market Logo

And if you want to prepare for an OANM or reflect upon one you experienced, answer some modified questions from Peter Block's book, Community: A Structure of Belonging.

  • What has someone in your community done today that has moved you or been valuable to you?
  • How did someone in your community engage you in a way that had meaning?
  • What gift do you have that nobody knows about?
  • What are you grateful for that has gone unspoken?
  • What is the positive feedback you receive that still surprises you?
  • What is the gift you have that you don't fully acknowledge?
Photo credit: Armosa Studios, Chris Montgomery, and Post Growth Institute

Me, Briefly

I bring together diverse communities, podcast about smart and simple matters, and get you excited about spreadsheets. Let's explore how to live intentionally, embrace our multipotentiality, share our gifts, build authentic relationships, and have tons of gratitude. No prior experience is required.