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I've been interested in the possibilities of crowd sourcing since I came across Louise Hawson at


After the success of her project in search of suburban beauty around Sydney, she financed an overseas trip to photograph 52 suburbs around the world by crowd-sourcing. I don't have what it takes to seek public funding for anything, but I do have what it takes to friend-source ideas. For that, all you need is a kind of laziness, a desperate need for ideas and a collection of friends with their fingers on many pulses.

My first venture was prompted by a comment from my brother-in-law when I was wondering what to do with my Broken Hill house. Renting it from 1100 kilometres away began to give me nightmares and the real estate agent didn't want to deal with it because it was too humble. I sent out an email to my network of wise ones, laying out my dilemma and asking for suggestions. This email provided me with an offer from a Broken Hill friend to paint it, or manage it, a variety of financial wisdoms, and a contact number for a potential buyer. So I sold my beloved little corrugated cottage and slept soundly again.


54 Burke St, painted for my 50th birthday by Geoff Demain


When I was laid up in Warsaw with an immobile leg on the fourth floor of a lift-free apartment in winter, I needed entertainment. So I asked for musical suggestions. My reliable network responded instantly, and I became acquainted with the Tallis Scholars, Joseph Tawadros and Anouar Brahem, and reacquainted with Joni Mitchell and a number of classical pieces that had slipped off my aural radar. The magic of iTunes meant I could download to my legless heart's content.



My latest invocation of friend-sourcing was the other day. I woke up startled into a sitting position in the middle of the night: I'd suddenly realised that I needed presents to take overseas for 5W women who have offered to show me around Vienna and Budapest. Once upon a time I was an imaginative gift-giver, but that skill has disappeared with any semblance of youth. So once again I hit the send button on a group email. By the end of the day I was well-stocked with suggestions, business names, websites and the offer of a companion-shopper. I was shamed most by a friend currently in Laos, recently in Taiwan, who reminded me of a shop 9 km from my village. Yesterday, I made my first gift-purchase there, a locally made dyed silk scarf which weighs nothing and takes up no space, two crucial characteristics.