The Library of Sporting Equipment: Sharing Economy for Better Health

How can we increase neighbourhood health by making use of open data? That was the main question last week when I participated in a weekend-long hackathon for health at Experiolab. Aiming to improve the public health of Kronoparken, a modernist neighbourhood in Karlstad, Sweden, we came together with a range of (local) experts and local citizens and went to work.

Hackathon for health, Karlstad. Picture by Kristoffer Andrén.

Hackathon for health, Karlstad. Picture by Kristoffer Andrén.

At the start of the hackathon, the participants were divided into four groups, each would be working on a different case. The team I worked with was assigned to think up ways in which Fritidsbanken, a local non-profit, could benefit from open data. Fritidsbanken, which could be translated as ‘leisure- or playtime bank’, is a great concept that is slowly spreading through Sweden. The non-profit works a bit like a library, although you won’t find any books there. People can go there to borrow all sorts of sporting equipment. All the items that Fritidsbanken lends out were donated by people who … well I guess were cleaning their attic or garage. The volunteers at Fritidsbanken mend all the items that come in and keep a track of who has borrowed what.

The whole team was excited about the concept, which resulted in a passionate brainstorm session. We started with all kinds of wild ideas, but shot most of them down, because we wanted something simple, easy to use, and most of all, something that would fit the Fritidsbanken ideology. We reasoned that the main element of Fritidsbanken is to create the right preconditions to sport and play for free. As they make sure that people have the right equipment, we wanted to make sure that people have the right place.

Hackathon for health, Karlstad. Picture by Kristoffer Andrén.

Hackathon for health, Karlstad. Picture by Kristoffer Andrén.

Because the university is right next to the neighbourhood were Fritidsbanken is located, I knew the surroundings a bit. Not that long ago I got lost cycling through one of the neighbourhood’s green areas and found a free-to-use tennis court. I worked at the university for almost a year and was unaware of the existence of the place. We figured that it would be great if we could link the sporting equipment of Fritidsbanken to places in the city, where the items could be used. But we also wanted to make sure that the places were in good shape. I won’t look for a tennis racket to borrow if I don’t know that I can use it for free next door. And I probably won’t play tennis if the net is broken or missing entirely. 

Back to the hackathon. We designed a platform that shows people a map of all the free-to-use playing fields in their neighbourhood. Some of the information is gathered from the municipalities’ website, which also has a map, but which does not depict all playing fields. By linking the new Fritidsbanken map to the one of the municipality, residents can map those locations that are not yet mapped and report locations that are not well maintained.

Our digital solution will support Fritidsbanken in creating the right preconditions for people to sport for free in their neighbourhood, by offering them both a good racket and a court.

The hackathon is part of the Horizon-2020 project open4citizens and is held in five pilot locations (Copenhagen, Karlstad, Rotterdam, Milano and Barcelona).


Written by Sascha Benes. Contact him via Twitter, Linkedin, or mail.