BuyNothing logo

Building a Gift Economy One Step at a Time

Creating a place for people to share their items was a challenge - here's how this story played out.

BuyNothing cover

The company and product

The BuyNothing Project is a community that advocates for a gift economy and creates a place for people to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude worldwide.

The idea became widely popular on Facebook. The community consists of at least 5.33 million users spread over about 7,000 groups.

Members can engage in non monetized sharing groups spread throughout neighborhoods, states, and countries. Behind it all, The BuyNothing Project has a set of principles that some members follow passionately. Building communities, trust, and connections are all values connected to their gift economy, which utilizes generosity and abundance.

Client’s feedback

BuyNothing Project logo

Liesl Clark

CO-FOUNDER and CEO at BuyNothing

Liesl Clark

Attention to our specific desire and development needs

We actually felt like attention was paid to our specific desire and development needs. As opposed to other companies just throwing some developers at us, and it will just be like everything else they build and they’ll just “get it done.”

Scope and highlights










The Challenge

Their tremendous success on Facebook was not without its pain points.

Several issues arose using Facebook as a third-party platform for hosting The BuyNothing Project’s communities.

The constraints of the platform did not allow for new, innovative features to be added. Additionally, every time Facebook made updates to groups, the community had no choice but to pivot, adapt and operate within these new conditions. Also, many people wanted to join the community but simply had no interest in using Facebook.

Managing a massive number of communities, with new ones created on an almost daily basis, began to take up a lot of time. It was clear that The BuyNothing Project needed a custom-made solution to host all their communities in one place, where they had more accessibility and administrative power. Migrating from Facebook to a proprietary application also meant they could operate outside the restrictive and unpredictable updates of Facebook groups.

The key challenges of the project included:

  • Building a proprietary application.

  • Migrating from Facebook Groups, gaining freedom to develop how they see fit.

  • Coming up with unique features that were previously restricted by Facebook. 

Buynothing application screenshot

  • BuyNothing application screenshot
  • BuyNothing application screenshot
  • BuyNothing application screenshot

The process

Alignment between The BuyNothing Project and Monterail’s design team via Figma.
Integration of for collecting user feedback.
Delivering the PoC and MVP on time and within budget.
Alignment between The BuyNothing Project and Monterail’s design team via Figma.
Integration of for collecting user feedback.
Delivering the PoC and MVP on time and within budget.

The Process

With such huge communities and interests built up already, there were no doubts about product-market fit.

The team at ShareThing also had a firm grasp on what they wanted the application to do, i.e. features and user flow. With these points in mind, it was decided to take a flexible approach and skip the discovery phase and instead put this time into the design phase. 

Figma was the tool of choice for keeping The BuyNothing Project team up to date with Monterail’s design updates. By sharing access early on, everyone was kept up to date and could see updates and minor changes in real-time as the design team was working on the project. 

A team of 12 in total worked on the project. A PoC was delivered in 3 months. Then the team connected to collect feedback from users with access to the BuyNothing Project application to collect feedback. Based on that feedback, MVP versions of a mobile application for iOS and Android were developed. 

The MVP took 6 months to deliver. Python was used to create the backend, React Native for the front-end, alongside Amazon Web Services as a cloud computing platform.

Our core actions were:

  • Alignment between The BuyNothing Project and Monterail’s design team via Figma.

  • Integration of for collecting user feedback.

  • Delivering the PoC and MVP on time and within budget.

Team’s voice

Monterail logo

Tomasz Zmarzły


Tomasz Zmarzły

Understanding the needs

From the beginning of the development process, we focused on partnership relations between the team and the client. This approach gave us a lot of freedom and satisfaction, both for the team and the client. Understanding the needs and adapting to the existing situation greatly influenced the success of the project. After six months, we were able to celebrate the release of the new application that we were building from scratch. We are happy that we could take part in creating a safe place for the BuyNothing community.

The Outcome

After building the PoC, an MVP was developed and successfully launched.

The BuyNothing Project now has its own platform to independently host hyper-local communities and facilitate gift economies. The application already has 283,279 users and 72,841 published posts between the iOS and Android applications.

The new application streamlines processes for both users and administrators. It’s easier for users to participate in communities no matter where they are, at home or on the move. Free from the constraints of Facebook groups, The BuyNothing Project team continues to brainstorm new and innovative features. The door has been opened to freely develop their application and communities as they choose to and the possibilities are endless.

The succes of this project hinged on the following factors:

  • Taking a flexible approach to the discovery phase.

  • Utilizing user feedback in the MVP development process.

  • Establishing clear communication channels between the Monterail and The BuyNothing Project’s teams.

BuyNothing application screenshot
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