For all the recent innovation and developments in technology and more, it’s easy to forget that some of the best ideas for solving national challenges are relics of the past.

That’s the case with Black Women’s Blueprint, a network for women to barter for goods and services that also runs a sou-sou, or money pool, an ancient savings technique through which the members of the pool each contribute a monthly amount of cash and take turns receiving the lump sum. Through this service, Black Women’s Blueprint strives to elevate the lives of black women socially and economically.

The group is run by Farah Tanis, a woman who has spent her life helping people, from working with refugees living with HIV in New York City to serving on the board of Girls for Gender Equity, an organization that seeks to provide comprehensive development to girls and women. These roles, combined with her many projects focused on combatting domestic violence, led her to be named a U.S. Human Rights Institute fellow in 2012.

“Through our barter network we were able to barter food for the week, for a car ride for the week, and that’s what sustained many of us,” Tanis said on a panel discussion sponsored by GRITtv. “It prevented homelessness, starvation and kids being left at home alone by themselves. The barter network builds community and it builds trust.”

Tanis told Laura Flanders of Yes! Magazine that the idea came to her when she was talking with a group of low-income women about the challenges they faced. “Most of us had grown up in poverty and we started looking at what were the systemic causes of poverty for us. We started looking at economic security as a human right and an extension of the Civil Rights.”

As Black Women’s Blueprint’s barter network proves, sometimes the best ideas are the old ones.

MORE: Here’s How An Ancient Banking Technique Can Help America’s Poor