The sharing economy (collaborative economy) is an emerging socio-economic movement aimed at shared consumption of goods and services. Often making use of some form of communication technology (apps or websites) the sharing economy forms a vast community of people who share homes, cars, bikes, boats, tools, books, pets, etc. It’s a great step forward and signifies a move away from consumerism. Actively sharing goods and services makes people save money, share experiences and prevent objects to be underutilized.
Less is more
The sharing economy springs forth by two trends: unlike post-war generations, the current generation doesn’t feel the need to own everything themselves. Moreover, the internet connects you to a host of like-minded people who enjoy sharing experiences. Looking at what the sharing economy offers, you can divide it into four sections:
- Collaborative consumption
- Collaborative production
- Collaborative education
- Collaborative finance
In each of these sections, money is hardly of any importance. Trust is the new currency, and your (online) reputation is one to protect. Here’s a talk by sharing economy expert Rachel Botsman on the importance of trust.
Read on or watch a short animated overview of the sharing economy instead.
Collaborative consumption enables a better allocation of resources by putting access before ownership. Share your (holiday) home with visitors from all around the globe with Airbnb or Couchsurfing. Let strangers share in your fuel expenses for a city trip with Blablacar. Drive people around town who are in need of a cheap taxi ride with Uber and SafeBoda. Help each other out by lending out your tools via Peerby. In terms of services, check out the platform TaskRabbit which connects people with jobs and tasks and people who can complete it.
Collaborative production enables local manufacturing and creativity in maker labs, such as Fab Labs. These maker labs (once started by MITs Neil Gershenfeld) are workshops full of digital machines which provide low key access to makers. Think of the famous 3D-printers, laser engraving machines, vinyl cutters and digital sewing machines. An excellent video on this is the panel on Open Manufacturing: the new industrial revolution. Another great example which transcends geographical boundaries is open source software. It enables people from all over the world to download and work on the same code, making the end product more valuable and suited to specific needs.
Collaborative education among others refers to the free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from universities and other organizations. You can now attend Harvard lectures from a computer screen in your living room. One of the bigger communities is the MOOC platforms Coursera. It’s a shame that this type of education is often not officially recognized, unlike an offline degree.
A second example of education in the sharing world – and the most famous – is of course Wikipedia! Everybody gets access to the same vast amount of information, which is updated by the public.
Collaborative finance enables innovators and makers to reach out to a global audience when looking for funding of ideas and project. In these so-called crowdfunding campaigns the audience is asked to invest in return for small rewards or a first edition of the product. Many products that otherwise would have never made it into existence, were fully funded and became a huge success. Examples are The Smog Free Tower, Zungle music glasses and Vi personal trainer. If you want to learn more about crowdfunding, here’s a good crowdfunding update by the biggest experts.
The most famous crowdfunding platform is the American Kickstarter, but there are many platforms out there, of which some focus on specific audiences: books (Unbound), movies (Tubestart), human-needs development projects (Get It Done), sports (MakeAChamp), etc.
Other great examples of the sharing economy:
- Simbi – exchanging services and skills with other people
- Simonetta Carbonaro – advocate of the sharing economy and product less
- Neal Gorenflo – connecting people within the sharing economy
- An African perspective – culture makes a difference
- Sharing bro’s – traveling by only using the sharing economy