The sharing movement is beginning to transform cities. Businesses in various sectors are looking at new ways of sharing space and resources. It is a simple concept that has stemmed from informal practice, but it may change the way cities operate.
Before diving further into the concept, think of the last time you shared something. Chances are you will not need to look far. You may have done something as simple as lending a tool to a neighbor or letting a friend sleep on your couch. Or perhaps you used a more modern application, such as Lyft, and had a stranger pick you up in their car and drive you to a destination. The principal is the same in each example and we are just now beginning to realize its true potential.
Fortunately, there are organizations facilitating this movement. Shareable is a nonprofit that is fostering the sharing transformation with the goal of creating a more prosperous and equitable world. Call it the sharing economy, call it collaborative consumption or keep it simple and call is sharing - it is all part of an emerging trend that can make cities more resilient and sustainable. This is the topic of the The Grid’s next tweetchat, at #TheGrid.
The formal systems we have developed around sharing grew out of necessity and practicality. Let’s look at a few examples:
In 2008, a couple of roommates living in San Francisco were having trouble paying their rent. In order to earn some extra money, they turned their apartment into a bed and breakfast for three strangers who were attending a local design conference. The roommates blew up three airbeds for the guests and cooked breakfast for them. Look to the future and you have Airbnb, which operates in 33,000 cities in 192 countries and is in a lawsuit with New York City.
In 2001, City CarShare emerged. The idea stemmed from the realization that cars are expensive and too many sit around not being driven. It makes more sense for people to only pay when they are actually using the car. In addition to car sharing services such as City CarShare, there is also ridesharing, where instead of borrowing a car, you commute with a stranger in their automobile. These services include Lyft, Uber and Sidecar.
Others include the following: couchsurfing, clothing exchanges, pop-up retail, bike sharing, and community gardening. Each example is rooted in a powerful concept that is changing the way we live our our lives. “Access trumps ownership,” as quoted by Kevin Kelley.
These are just some of the more mainstream services that are part of the sharing economy. But there are numerous examples of sharing that take place on many levels. Shareable is writing about these practices and teaching the world how they can be applied in cities.
Shareable was founded by Neal Gorenflo, who left the corporate world in 2004 after an epiphany and chose to turn his efforts towards helping people share through the internet. He founded Shareable in 2009 and with his team, is now working on creating a Sharing Cities Network. The goal is to create a network of cities where people can meet their own - and each other’s needs - through their personal choice to share.
Already, Shareable has created a list titled “Policies for a Shareable City.” Many people have adopted these ideas into their everyday lives. But bringing the sharing practices together with the presence of existing structures will be difficult. Airbnb is already facing opposition from hotels as is Lyft, from cab companies.
This is not to say we should slow down. On the contrary, as the world becomes more urbanized, it is vital cities adopt policies that make them more independent. The sharing movement will play a big role in shaping this necessary transformation.
What do you or your city share?
Join myself and Renee van Staveren from The Grid and Neal Gorenflo from Shareable on December 18th, 2013 at 3PM EDT/ 2PM CDT/ 12PM PDT/ 8PM BST/ 10PM EEST for our #TheGrid Tweetchat. The discussion will last an hour. We’ll be exploring how the sharing movement is shaping cities. Simply login to Twitter and follow the #TheGrid hashtag and include it in your tweets to join the discussion.
Credits: Data and photos linked to sources.