Who’s who in the Sharing Economy?

The sharing movement is spreading around the globe. Many interesting websites portray the different grass roots initiatives and connect people and projects from many cities.
To get a first overview of what the sharing transformation is all about, I started at the Shareable website. Founded in 2009, the website shares stories of sharers all around the globe. From free food initiatives, ride shares to housing and neighbourhood projects, the website shows a plethora of creative ideas that inspire people to start similar things in their communities. Looking at examples of what is possible and being able to connect with activists from all over the world shows the true potential of sharing initiatives. It also makes it easier to start something yourself if you see what has already been done elsewhere and can get advice from experts who have already initiated projects and can share the lessons learned.

From France comes the global community Ouishare, which describes itself not only as a think-tank but also as a “do-tank”. Started in 2012, Ouishare is now active in 25 countries around the globe. The community connects thinkers and activists working toward a collaborative economy. There are a lot of ideas and projects presented on their website. But while shareable.net presents a lot of hands-on activities being realized by activists, Ouishare is more about awareness raising, sharing concepts and working together on new ideas. Both sites are important to connect grassroots activities to the bigger ideas and concepts driving these projects and the discussions around it.

The biggest amount of sharing communities and associated web-platforms and services has certainly emerged in the United States. Platforms like Uber, focusing on car sharing, and Airbnb, which enables people to rent out their private homes, have been successful all over the world. But these for-profit services have also generated a lot criticism and discussion in the media. They are considered a threat to conventional businesses such as taxi drivers and hotels. Although they might have emerged as a response to the economic crisis, they are now seen as perpetuating the crisis by endangering the livelihoods of others, as this article argues. Whether that may be true or not, sharing platforms have to take care of such issues and make sure to not all be thrown into the same category with Uber and Airbnb. This also puts into question if for-profit platforms can be considered “sharing” at all, especially when big businesses become interested and try to co-opt share-platforms for their own products and services.

On the other hand, for-profit sharing communities can also present a good alternative to regular shopping. Browsing websites like Kleiderkreisel, where you can buy and sell second-hand clothing, or Willhaben, an online fleamarket for everything, I realized how much excess stuff people have and for how much cheaper you can get practically new things. Consumer goods lose a lot of monetary value once they are bought, even though they might not have been used much at all. Options for consumption outside the conventional businesses open up alternative channels to buy, sell or swap and give things a second life. And doing it online brings the right people together, who otherwise might have never met on a flea market for example. The web creates access to almost everyone with a computer making it much easier to find just exactly what you were looking for.
In the universe of the sharing economy, there’s something for everyone. It’s worth it to browse all the different sites and find out what’s right for you.

By: Annika Zech