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Collaborative Consumption is Quickly Gaining Ground: The...

Collaborative Consumption is Quickly Gaining Ground: The New Economy of Sharing at The Congress for the New Urbanism’s CNU21

Lee Sobel, a Real Estate Development and Finance Analyst for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, opened with a defining aspect of a shared economy: “access trumps ownership.” Good examples of new economy businesses are Airbnb and Couchsurfing, bike sharing, and many variations on car sharing. He recommended some car sharing or

Lee Sobel, a Real Estate Development and Finance Analyst for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, opened with a defining aspect of a shared economy: “access trumps ownership.” Good examples of new economy businesses are Airbnb and Couchsurfing, bike sharing, and many variations on car sharing. He recommended some car sharing or auto resource sharing apps: RideshareSidecar, Car2gether, and Parking Panda.

2.2 million trips are made each month via bike share programs on Earth.

The most successful sharing programs involve goods that are worth $100-$500, are infrequently used by their owners, and are easily transportable. Other successful programs revolve around: office space, kitchens, metal and woodworking shops, meals, clothing, wifi, and dog kennels (via Dogvacay).

Sobel recommended Forbes Magazine for more information on the new economy and how many businesses are succeeding within this new methodology. He also suggested the novel, “What’s Mine is Yours,” by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers.

He closed by noting that these services only work because the consumer, the provider of the service, and the facilitator are all trusting one another. Reputation is key, he said.

Eliza Harris, a Senior Associate at Canin Associates and Congress for the New Urbanism Board Member, chose to focus her time on job sharing, or micro-outsourcing. This work format particularly helps small businesses, she said.

Gigwalk, a smartphone app, facilitates “microtasks.” These small, odd-jobs are compensated for in their own micro way. Most people who need a task completed offer $5-$20 to Gigwalkers. Since taxes aren’t usually taken into account, it’s an underground economy for now.

oDesk for freelancers, provides the same sort of service. The difference here is that the jobs require some sort of education, experience, or portfolio and may take longer than a microtask on Gigwalk.

Time sharing is a very similar concept to Gigwalk, and is best embodied in TaskRabbit. Users offer up cash to strangers to pick up dry cleaning, put together IKEA furniture, go grocery shopping, or any number of chores and errands. For many tasks, you must pass a background check.

Tool sharing can simply be a shared, stocked garden shed. It could even just be a network of people with supplies in their garages. “Not every home needs a lawn mower,” said Harris. This model works both at the neighborhood level as well as in a larger scope, like Sharehammer.

Jennifer Krouse, Founder of Steepletown Studios and Imagining North Adams, highlighted hospitality sharing services, particularly Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing offers profile creation with room to define your offered sleep space, a search tool, and a messaging tool to make plans and contact those with free couches. You don’t have to have just a couch- many Couchsurfers offer guest bedrooms or even just their living room floor.

She said that Couchsurfing relies upon photos, verification, and reviews/reputation to building trust between users. Couchsurfing uses credit cards to verify your identity.

Dhiru Thadani is a self-employed planner and architect. He presented his thoughts on Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general. He described these systems as a careful balance of leadership and collaboration. Most Kickstarter campaigns offer investors rewards, products, gestures, or gifts for investing a certain amount. Thadani said that he found that the most successful campaigns actually show what backers will receive if they support the cause. He told us that in 2010, Kickstarter had 4,000 successful campaigns that raised $28 million in total. Just two year later, in 2012, Kickstarter hosted over 75,000 successful campaigns and projects, and raised over $380 million in total. I believe that this, if nothing else, exemplifies how quickly the new economy is taking shape, becoming competitive, and winning.

WA DC bike share

Sebol took the stage once again to discuss bike sharing programs, using Washington DC's program as his main example. He defined a bike sharing program as a form of public transportation that contributes to a community's transit system. In DC, the program tracks every trip- the origin, destination, and trip time.

Damaged property and theft has always been a huge problem with early versions of these sharing programs. New programs, like DC's, require credit cards to sign up for a membership.

In DC, an annual membership costs between $75-90 annually. The first 30 minutes of every trip is free. After that, the user accrues an additional fee. Sebol said that this works out best for members because the average trip is 22 minutes. The true profit is made off of tourists and daily memberships. Extra time is awarded if a station is full of bikes to allow the user to return their bike to a station with an open rack.

Bike stations are typically solar, and take just 2 hours to install.

Partners, sponsors, advertisements, and bike lanes all help facilitate and ensure the successful future of bike share programs.

Next, Robert Orr,  presented his thoughts and experiences with shared office space, or 'coworking.' These are office spaces that rent out desks and meeting rooms by the hour or month that serve as an alternative to working in coffee shops or your home. Freelancers are the major market for shared office spaces. He added that 60% of students in higher education are women, so these spaces typically attract females.

He acknowledged that it's most popular in Europe than anywhere else in the world, but that it could work just as well in America. The best shared office space offers a variety of spaces: rows of desks in a large room, meeting rooms equipped with appropriate tools, and small private offices.

Orr said that one advantage of these space is that you can collaborate and receive feedback from others in a wide range of fields. Feedback nights, group events, and office challenges are all part of the shared office culture. The rentable space is also great after hours and can be used to host serious events like charrettes or more light-hearted gatherings like a cocktail and movie night.

Ann Daigle, a community planner specializing in the implementation of New Urban and Smart Growth principles, discussed business incubators, specifically ones in New Orleans. She said that businesses usually stay in the incubator anywhere from 18 months to 3 years. Businesses use shared facilities and pay by the hour.

The incubator serves many purposes aside from supporting new businesses. The kitchen facilities are also used by Cafe Reconcile, a learning program for underprivileged kids and teens in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Hollygrove Market & Farm is a CSA, or community supported agriculture, farmer's market. The source farms are urban farms, meaning they're within the city limits. The market also hosts education programs. Strong connections with restaurants and grocery stores keep the market economically sustainable. The Goldring Center of Culinary Medicine at Tulane University teaches basic kitchen skills to teens, also held in the shared kitchen space. A 54-hour-long startup weekend is also held on the premises annually. The IDEAinstitute is also housed there.

Have you ever participated in any of these sharing programs? Used any of the apps? Started anything up via crowdsourcing? Tell us about your experience(s) in the comments below!

Credit: Photo and references linked to sources.

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Aascot Holt is an undergraduate at Eastern Washington University, pursuing a major in Urban and Regional Planning and a minor in Geography. She will graduate in the spring of 2013. She is from Stevenson, WA and currently lives in Spokane, WA in a bri...

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