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rain.pngBy B.L. Ochman
The Park Slope Civic Council in Brooklyn, NY understands the value of social networks. So next week – rain or shine – a group of local merchants and social activists will hand out 400 bright yellow umbrellas.
The project is about listening. It’s not about the weather.
Beginning Tuesday, shoppers can borrow a yellow bumbershoot from any participating shop or restaurant, and return it, when the sun comes back, to the place they got it or to another participating merchant.
Will people bring them back? Not important! Each umbrella says “Please enjoy this community umbrella and return it to a participating merchant,” and carries the Council’s name and logo.
The umbrellas are, in other words, what my friend Hugh Macleod calls a social object – a conversation starter…a generator of benevolence.
Catherine Bohne, who owns the charming Community Book Store on Seventh Avenue, says she came up with the idea when people came in during a downpour in hopes of borrowing an umbrella. “I gave them a spare umbrella,” she told the NY Daily News, “and they were so grateful.” She says that’s when she realized that:

“…looking after the people that look after you by supporting your store is exactly what small business is all about.”

Are you listening big companies? Cause that’s also what big business needs to be all about.