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Miutcánk.hu: Village Experience in a Metropolis

By Abraham Vass // 2018.04.13.

In today’s accelerated world, we find that – thanks to digitization – we are often faced with people shutting themselves out, becoming apathetic, neglecting to communicate with each other, and allowing their relationships to gradually wither; moreover, ‘shopping fever’ has them acquiring the occasional unnecessary thing online. The creators of a company called Miutcánk want to use digitization to ameliorate this phenomena and encourage conscious thought. The project aims to link people living in each other’s immediate vicinity in a way that will deepen and optimize their relationship.

A number of similarly formulated websites and services already exist and are operating overseas, but Miutcánk is the first in Hungary. One of the founders and the concept’s mastermind, Dávid Szabó, said that two events had provided the initial impetus to start the project: One was when he was in dire need of something and realized that none of his extended family circle lived close by. It was then he realized that he and his neighbours, even though they had been living in one place for 15 years, did not know each other. The other event was the Budapest flood in 2013, where Dávid was most impressed by the ability of people to work together in times of need; he envisioned this interaction functioning in everyday life.

photo: Miutcánk Facebook

In contrast to the principle of various internet community sites encouraging globality and connecting acquaintances living apart, the company focuses on locality, small communities, and emphasizes relationships between people living close together. On the blog run by the creators of the company, we can read many stories of neighbours that would avoid each other at all costs, or in the best case nod to each other, that have joined the neighbourhood community or have even become good friends. To give an example, in Érd (located in Budapest’s metropolitan area), the local residents used Miutcánk to organize and assemble the local farmers, small shop owners and shoppers; they were better able to support them this way, not to mention, the origin and quality of products could be guaranteed and insured. According to one of the most moving stories, a – presumably – single parent was looking for babysitter and found one for her children. The Neighbour Festival and Picnic organized by Miutcánk were also very successful.

photo: Miutcánk Facebook

Many of the registrations and interactions on the page are, of course, mainly practical things, subjects and activities. This may be a lost ladder, a shelf that needs to be installed, or merely a vacuum cleaner that is no longer of need to its owner, who will gladly exchange it for a bottle of homemade pálinka (fruit brandy). Thus, after opening the miutcank.hu webpage and completing a quick registration with a name and address, we can browse the neighbourhood community and anything else we may be looking for or are interested in: offers, desired things and activities, and we can indicate what exactly we can help with and what interests us. And what does the area cover? According to the creators it is the range that you can travel by a 10-minute walk. In addition, the website has a message board where you can write something on occasion, for example, if you need help hauling furniture or organising a garage sale; even job offers have a place on the platform.

photo: Miutcánk Facebook

The site launched in 2014, was considered one of the most promising startups at the time, with more than forty thousand users, from close to five hundred different settlements by the end of its first active year, and roughly fifty thousand total registered devices in their database. When they erupted into public consciousness, immediately people would read that the company is growing, and that it would soon be rowing its innovation over international waters. This has not yet been achieved however, and the creators themselves admit that they had to face many obstacles at the beginning of the project. Periodically, it occurred that the site would crash for days at a time when the founding developer left and they had to fill the position.

It was also challenging to find a balance of social responsibility, to gain confidence from local communities and to consequently generate profit so that they could become self-financing. Although the team has since become smaller, they have found investors, and with certain premium versions of services as well as advertisement revenue from their website, the project is slowly but surely moving towards the break-even point, perhaps even a prospective profit.