The City as a Commons – Panel discussion about the state and future of sharing

The Josefstadt branch of Vienna’s Lokale Agenda 21 began its new season on 29/01/2015 by hosting a panel discussion with Neal Gorenflo, co-founder and publisher of online network and news hub Shareable. Vienna Shares’ very own Mirjam joined Neal on the panel, as did Agenda’s Peter Kühnberger, OuiShares’ Josef Kreitmayer and Sharing Economy researcher Kasia Gruszka.
Around 30 people gathered in the cozy surroundings of Greißlerei 8, the shop which shares its facilities with the new Agenda office. In between the store’s shelves, presenting goods such as dog toys, biological pasta or BioSchnaps, the group got together to discuss their experience with and hopes for sharing.

The night started with a short teaser from Agenda’s feature on sharing in Vienna which contains an interview with Mirjam – those who missed it on TV, watch it here. Following this, Neal introduced his initiative. His basic motivation he summarized as what he sees as rejection of Margaret Thatcher’s principle, ‘There is no [such thing as] society!’ Yes there is, he countered, and it is made up of local and regional communities. To strengthen and connect these and make things happen within and between them, he described as primary goal of Shareable.
At this point the event took a very open shape, with panel members both presenting their initiatives and discussing problems in a free-for-all Q&A session. Our friends from LeiLa and were also in the crowd and chimed in with their experiences.

Various topics were on the agenda. Central to the still very locally-focused efforts of many of the participants were two questions: How does one make time for collaborative consumption efforts while still earning a living? How are the projects funded? The consensus was to keep the sharing efforts mostly non-profit, with even suggesting that their portal would hopefully be obsolete in the future, when sharing communities would be seen as natural and self-sufficient.
Other talking points were the differences between sharing culture in cities and rural areas, as well as the difference between community-led projects as opposed to those funded by big business.

Also discussed was the extent of collaboration with politics and city officials – here Neal was able to share from his cooperation with the Seoul city administration. When asked about the reasons for which city governments nowadays would cooperate with sharing initiatives, he summarized them into four problems, all created by rapid urban modernization:

– Growing isolation in big cities
– Excessive pollution, especially in Eastern Asia
– The need for alternative ways of life beside the usually idealized ones (he gave the example of the usual ‘Samsung career path’ in South Korea)
– The lagging civic sector, desperately in need of updating

An interesting outside view was offered by Kasia Gruszka, who is researching Vienna’s sharing movement for her dissertation. She observed that the boom of such initiatives in the recent decades has lead to a wide pool of different associations. While most of them are usually describing themselves in terms of the same movement, it is often hard, in academic terms, to actually find proper terms and methods that apply to all of them.

Apart from all the talking points, this was naturally a great opportunity to just share the different initiatives, programs and websites that one has come across. Find some of them below.

And of course, we owe a big thank you to Greißlerei 8 for their hospitality and delicious food!

Shareable – The international sharing news platform and organizational network co-founded by Neal Gorenflo.
Ouishare – Describing itself as ‘global community and think and do-tank’, OuiShare is a global initiative designed to connect collaborative economic programs. This panel discussion was co-hosted by its Viennese branch.
Teilbar – An Austrian platform enabling users to borrow everyday items instead of buying them.
Leila – Most likely already known to you, a local borrowing shop. Online presence still under construction, but check out their FB-page.
Fragnebenan – A portal that seeks to (re-)connect neighborhoods to promote cooperation and collaboration.
La’Zooz – A new ride sharing service offering the fair alternative to Uber.
Listia – Online exchange network – Use your stuff as currency!

Find out other local activities in your neighbourhood organized by Lokale Agenda 21 on their blog!

Written by Jakob Jorda
Photos: Lokale Agenda Josefstadt