An hour for an hour: The northern beaches app "changing the way we help"

HELPING HANDS: Jean-Phillipe Brianchon created
HELPING HANDS: Jean-Phillipe Brianchon created "SwapAnHour," an app which connects people to offer their services for services in return. Photo: Geoff Jones

Frenchs Forest local Jean-Philippe Brianchon wants to change the way the community helps each other.

He's the one-man team behind the app SwapAnHour, where people can exchange one hour of their time for an hour of someone else's.

Unlike typical gig apps, there's no money or virtual currency involved. The app works on a system of "banking time," Jean-Philippe said, "if you help someone for a few hours you can later on use those hours to ask for help yourself."

The app doesn't "discriminate" based on the market value of certain skills. An hour's work walking a neighbour's dogs can be swapped for an hour of massage therapy or IT support.

"It's an hour for an hour. Whether you're a lawyer helping someone to settle paperwork or you're an IT guy, if you help for an hour you're entitled to an hour's help," Jean-Philippe said.

"It's based on kindness, it won't fit everyone."

Jean-Philippe, who's an IT professional, says he's had the idea for SwapAnHour for about 20 years. But, it took a back seat to other projects he was working on including a travel app. It was his partner, Hassia Dumoulin, who urged him to revisit his barter app idea.

"I couldn't find a way to differentiate myself from the other travel apps which already existed. And my partner said 'what about that idea you had a long time ago?'," he said.

Sadly, three years ago Jean-Philippe's partner lost her battle with cancer. While she was in treatment, the community rallied behind the family, offering them all kinds of assistance.

"We received a lot of help from the community, it was just amazing. People did so much to help and didn't expect anything in return. That as well put something in my mind that I should make the app."

So far the app has around 1,500 members and most are from the northern beaches. Swappers are offering up hours in everything from copywriting to energy healing. Jean-Philippe even uses it himself.

"A lady was stuck with an excel spreadsheet, and I'm an IT guy, so I helped her with that. I helped another lady by giving advice on web development, so I help with my skills," he said.

He's received help from others in return. As a native French speaker, Jean-Philippe has used the app to find proofreaders to help with his marketing materials.

Since the app launched Jean-Philippe's added functionality for loaning and borrowing household goods and for donating unwanted items. For him, creating the app isn't about building a business, but creating a community of mutual aid.

"It's a kind of kindness movement," he said.

"It's done in a way where both the person who's asking for help and the helper have control over what they want to do."

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