How it works

Check out our explainer video

The Swapping Chain was inspired by the “Kidney Chain” or “Kidney Exchange” developed by Alvin Roth at UCLA.

As the founder of SwapU (  I discovered that the perfect swap was almost impossible to find.  There were too many variables that had to be met in order to find the ideal exchange.  I soon realised that I would have no chance of helping my customers unless I could find them the swaps they wanted. 

A kidney exchange has the same challenges.  For example, I want to give my kidney to a friend who is sick, but we are not a match.  We have a kidney and a person who needs a kidney so we should be able to help out my friend.  What if there were other people also in the same situation, who had a kidney to give but no match.  What if we could work out a way that someone else got my kidney and my friend received someone else’s kidney.  All the  people would be happy. 

So I took this theory to swapping goods.  We needed to find people who were more likely to match so we focused on groups of likeminded people (collectors, mums groups etc.). If we could ask these people to pool their items based on an approximate value, and then provide them with the convenience of delivery we knew we would be on to a winner.  

The perfect swap has always been too hard, until now.  With the help of medicine and organ exchanges swapping goods is now easy. 

What is a “Swapping Chain”?

  • A swapping chain is where items are grouped together based on category and approximate value in to a “pool”. Users who placed an item into the pool are allowed to choose the items that they would like in exchange for their item. Once all the choices are made the chain calculates the “chain”.  This means items are distributed to members of the group based on choices.  Bob sends his item to Mary, who sends her item to Jane who sends her item to Bob.  When there is a large “pool” of goods for each person to make their swapping choices from, then the chances of a successful chain being calculated are high. 

How does a swapping chain calculate swaps?

  • Each swapping chain is based on a selected category and agreed value.  Each user places an item into the pool and chooses their top three choices.  The allocations of the items amongst the group members are based on two factors.  The first being the popularity if the item that you placed in the pool.  If you placed a popular item into the pool then you should be rewarded with a favoured choice. The second is time with the people who make their selection the earliest being prioritised. A mixture of these two factors along with the choices that you make contributes towards the final allocation of the items in the pool. 

How many people do I need for a swapping chain?

  • The minimum is three and the maximum is 8 billion.  Once the planet has more people the number will rise. 

How do I create a swapping chain?

  • You will need to create a group first and invite users to your group.  When you have a group of people you can create your own swapping chain. 

How do I join a swapping chain?

  • There are two ways.  Firstly, you will be invited to join a swapping chain by the administror of your group.  Secondly you can ask to join a group by sending a “request to join” to that groups admin.  

How do I increase my chances of getting the swap I want?

  • Make sure you get you place an item in the chain that you know will be popular and that you make your choice early.  

Can I use the swapping chain to swap services and labor?

  • Yes.  But with very important considerations. Tax is the most important consideration here, especially when the service that you are offering to exchange is what you derive your income from.  The swapping chain would be a great tool to help groups of friends to allocate jobs and tasks in a reciprocal manner. If you are looking at using it another way for labor or services please seek advice from your accountant or tax agent.

Are the swapping chain results binding?  Do I have to make the swap it suggests?

  • The swapping chain is in no way binding.  It is a point in time calculation of the redistribution of goods added to a pool.  What you choose to do with the information provided is up to you.  If you don’t like the results you can easily go back and recalculate. 

What if nobody chooses my item?

  • If nobody wants your item, then you will not be included in the swapping chain.  Only those people who have had one of their items chosen can receive an item from the pool.

What is a “Swap Meet” group?

  • A swap meet group is for when you are together in the same room with all the people that you want to swap with.  It is designed to be used on a single device and negates the need for everyone to join online. 

What is a “Curated” Group?

  • A curated group is a group run by an admin who has a very active community of collectors or swappers.  The admin of a curated group goes above and beyond to get great swapping chains happening.  It is perfect for sports card collectors or any group that loves to exchange but has a need for a group leader who can activate their group.  It is also a great idea for charities.  The charity can hold an event using the swapping chain curated group and have everyone bring their items to the live event.  The charity collects the money via online payments and the arranges for the items to be redistributed at the event.  

Why do I pay $2 to swap in a curated group when it is free with a regular group?

  • It’s all about the uniqueness of the group and the services the admin is offering.  The person running a curated group is doing a lot of work to get the group active and make the best possible swapping chains.  And if it is a charity running the swapping chain events then you know that the money is going to a good place. 

How do I invite people to my group?

  • When you create your group, you will receive a link that can be shared via email or on your social networks.  Each new user will have to create an account. 
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