Once upon a time (2003)........ a great idea was developed by Deron Beal: 'why not use the internet as a way of putting people in touch with others to pass on items they don't want anymore?'. Yahoo! had a great facility (Yahoo! Groups) which was free to use and provided a platform for people to place messages advertising stuff to give away. Freecycle was born, the first group opened by Deron in Tucson, Arizona. Then the idea spread.
Skip forward a few years and The Freecycle Network (TFN) has turned into a worldwide movement with thousands of groups, volunteers of every nationality and millions of members. Outside of the US, Freecycle is particularly successful in the UK. But there was a bit of a problem. In 2009 conflicts arose between UK Freecycle moderators and the US-based founders of the company. It centered around the lack of freedom for UK Freecycle groups to develop local initiatives and features, and also how volunteers were treated. This culminated in the UK Director Neil Morris and at least 20 local group owners and moderators being dismissed and replaced with US-based counterparts.
A huge number of emails and a remarkably short time later, Freegle was born in September 2009 and UK Freecycle groups started to join our new network. The Freegle name and logo were devised by those first volunteers and voted to be adopted, the website was put together and the first set of guidelines for affiliation started to be drawn up. After the experience of Freecycle, the volunteers who joined together to make Freegle were clear that the new network needed to be democratic, transparent and that groups should retain their autonomy. Those principles are still a bedrock of Freegle, which first developed a Constitution and got itself a bank account, then moved onto forming the legal entity of Freegle Ltd, which is an IPS, all the time working collaboratively with all its volunteers to provide support for the network of groups.
The legacy of using the Yahoo! Groups facility as the main platform for running a Freegle group continued, although Freegle was happy to consider other platforms if new groups wished to affiliate (see Norfolk Freegle), but exciting facilities were developed 'in-house' so that groups could offer a wider range of opportunities to members to be involved (Facebook, Freegle Direct etc).
In September 2016 a new updated website was launched, with the capability to directly host groups, free from Yahoo. The Members of Freegle Ltd voted at the 2017 AGM that support for Yahoo Groups needed to be dropped, so Freegle disengaged with Yahoo by the end of September 2018. This meant that all local groups were now hosted on Freegle Direct, except those that were on the Norfolk platform. In early 2020, the Norfolk platform groups decided to move to Freegle Direct, so the whole family of Freegle was now together.
In late 2019 Yahoo announced it would be effectively closing down Yahoo Groups, so the final phase of moving away from Yahoo was undertaken. Freegle moved its national groups to the Discourse platform, (fulfilling the AGM vote to find an alternative platform). Some national teams and local mod groups also moved their Yahoo discussion groups to groups.io. Archive records were made of all the messages on local and national groups that were accessible for future reference, as Yahoo intended to delete all content on their Groups. Yahoo confirmed later it was closing down the whole Groups platform on 15th December 2020.
In 2020 the Coronavirus outbreak caused us to close the website down completely for a few weeks. We were very relieved that we received enough income to survive this and that freegling continued with enthusiasm once lockdowns were eased.
Freegle is an umbrella organisation for lots of independent groups. We continue to develop ourselves and all Volunteers form the family of the organisation. Although some Volunteers are able to offer more time and different sets of skills to help make it all work, everyone is encouraged to pitch in and help make it happen, as well as becoming voting Members of Freegle Ltd.
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