Helping Build the Sharing Economy

On the 27th of April, we co-hosted a pop-up lab at the NESTA headquarters with The People Who Share, a socially minded enterprise dedicated to reshaping global economies through reciprocity, collaboration and exchange.

The aim of this cross-disciplinary collective gathering was three fold:

  • Create a space where attendees could connect with each other in the co-creation of what the architecture of a sharing economy could look like.
  • Address two main questions to identify and envisage how the architectural elements of a sharing economy can be used to build social capital and community cohesiveness at various scales. These questions were:

             – What do we want a sharing economy to be?
             – How can we collaborate to build a sharing economy?

  • Encourage participation in the iteration process by giving guests a platform to inquire and host their own mini discussion groups around the topic of sharing.

The What and How of a Sharing Economy

It turns out that many of the key insights discovered that could help form the building blocks of a sharing based economy are values in which basic human societies are constructed. For instance, the top values that were consistent throughout the synthesis process were: Altruism, Trust, Reciprocity, Community Development and Empathy.

So it’s not unsurprising that when a ‘community’ of people gather together around a central issue, we end up discovering or perhaps re-discovering a set of principals that have been shaping society for the last two thousand years. But if this is something we know…then the real question is why isn’t it working?

Obviously our current systems are failing, but perhaps shifting a culture of non-giving to one where sharing is mainstream and ‘the norm’ can only happen at a certain scale? If that is the case, then perhaps one large sharing economy isn’t socially feasible….and the reality is, we need to architect a network of sharing economy clusters, ones that are shaped and cultivated according to the culture and customs of the locality in which they are instituted.

While it’s difficult to say where exactly these shifts will take place, if they’ll happen organically or will need a degree of nudging by organizations like The People Who Share, what we do know and was validated during our society building design charrette was that like any great tribal community, transformation and sharing begins, with a story.

However, in the same way that one great sharing economy may not provide enough of a catalyst for lasting change, neither can one great sharing story, or even a series of big stories, change the minds and hearts of millions. What’s required then is perhaps something more granular. What if we could harvest and share smaller more meaningful stories, acts of kindness, collaboration, and giving. Ones that ripple. Ones that build on each other. And ones that scale. In essence, that’s what The People Who Share, are all about. If we could accomplish that, then maybe we could forge a future where what’s mine…is truly yours.

Several questions where discussed. We can’t dive into all of them in this space, but below are just a few of the insightful questions posed and discussed by the Sharing Economy attendees:

  • How can we better share power (state, national, global levels)?
  • What should local government do to encourage a sharing economy?
  • How do we better organise or govern ourselves so that sharing becomes intuitive and nature becomes our guiding model?
  • Should sharing be a choice?

Final Thoughts

The digging, prodding and reciprocal exchange brought about during the mini thought showering sessions were one of fluidity and immersion. Everyone participated. Everyone shared. In the end, three key points surfaced that run parallel with the values discovered during the synthesis process. They were:

  • In order to get trust…instill it, make the exchange of value mainstream, we must first invest in trust.
  • Power takes many shapes and has many faces, but perhaps our most valuable asset is using power, to empower.
  • Learn from the successes of getting it wrong…after all, we’re only human.  

This sharing post reflects the shared thoughts of Ilana Taub & Andrew Sundling