As the Interaction Designer on a team led by Victoria Bellotti at Xerox PARC, I've been working on designing and building a new app for community-based timebanking. Our initial focus has been on working with teams and CMU and Penn State to create something that's never quite been done before: contextual-based matching for local ride sharing.
Though ride sharing has been done (and "pseudo-sharing", wherein you pay a fee for service) to varying degrees of sophistication, our work is not only true sharing (centered in the timebanking ethos), but also bases its ride matching and recommending on contextual awareness. Given the user's permission, the app will learn where a user travels to and from regularly and at what times, while keeping this data secure and invisible to other users. This means that when another user posts a ride or delivery request ("Can someone take me to my doctor appointment?" or "I need something dropped off at the post office"), the app will match the requester to a timebank member who already is traveling roughly that route at roughly that time. It's our hypothesis that the less onerous we make it to give your neighbor a lift, the more likely you'll do it – and help grow community interactions and bonds.
We'll be testing the app (usability, QA, back end) in a closed trial this summer, with a public release to follow soon after.