Good Deeds Add Up in Somerville Stock Exchange

Somerville’s stock is rising. That’s what Tim Devin, the man behind the Somerville Stock Exchange, has learned in the year since he started the project.

“It has definitely gone up,” said Devin, a Somerville resident and Somerville Arts Council board member. “I thought it was interesting how the community stocks beat the real ones.”

The Somerville Stock Exchange ended on March 31, one year after it began, and Devin will have a final report out this week. Devin hatched the project last year after realizing that the actual stock market works in much the same way as a community. People put things in and then people benefit from those contributions.

SSE ChartIn the real stock market, you invest money. In Devin’s exchange, people did good deeds or donated to local nonprofits to become shareholders.

“There are all these hidden things people do that no one tells people about,” Devin said. So he created a “forum where you can write about yourself in that way.” Though many people self-reported good deeds–like buying a homeless man a sandwich, for example–a lot chose to remain anonymous.

“I was blown away by how many people participated,” Devin said. “I never felt like I was talking people into it. The idea resonated with people.”

Devin set up tables at many public events in Somerville to spread the word about the exchange, which encouraged people to tell him about the positive things they were doing in the community. One woman revealed that she had oiled all the swingsets at all the parks in the city just because.

But the stock exchange didn’t just track the things making Somerville a better place to live. Devin also included negative events that affect the community, like the tension over Beacon Street and Union Square.

“There were negative things that I wanted to get in. The stock would crash and then go back up,” Devin said. So the good deeds happening in the community worked to offset the negative events.


“My hope was if I created a situation people were proud of and people saw that positive reinforcement that people are doing positive things, then they should too,” Devin added.

The Somerville Stock Exchange was broken down into three categories: community, the environment and the arts. Each was paired with a local nonprofit, which benefited from contributions made to the project. Community went to the Somerville Homeless Coalition, arts went to the Somerville Arts Council and the environment went to Somerville Climate Action.

Having lived in Somerville on and off for 15 years, Devin already knew a lot about the city, but the stock exchange project helped him learn even more about the people and community organizations working to make it such a vibrant place.

“There are very involved people that are proud to live in Somerville. It’s a very community-oriented place,” Devin said. “I was really surprised by how much community spirit there is.”

P.S. As a Somerville Arts Council board member, Devin spearheaded the Artist of the Month initiative. You can read about the project and the featured artists here.

Images courtesy of the Somerville Stock Exchange.

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