Collaborative Consumption (or the Sharing Economy) is growing rapidly. Although I don’t think its impact can be compared to that of the Industrial Revolution (like some have suggested), it is certainly a legitimate game changer. Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group, says that he sees 5-15 startups in almost every category of the Shared Economy. We are leveraging technology to connect with those who may be interested in our property, possessions, or services. This movement has provided numerous benefits: the ability to generate extra cash, alternative sources for a variety of services/needs, and an increased level of community. I haven’t utilized too many of the collaborative consumption services, but am fascinated with its wide-scale disruption.
There is no doubt that this movement has made us more interconnected. We are coming in contact with people we never would have otherwise. More importantly, it has congregated communities of people with various assets and services. We typically tap into these groups to purchase or rent their assets or services. However, in a time of need these communities can provide critically needed services.
Last November, Hurricane Sandy ripped into the Northeast region, causing significant damage and displacement. Airbnb decided that its community needed to take action. The City of New York and Airbnb joined together to help connect those displaced with (people willing to provide ) temporary housing (free of charge). These invaluable gestures were provided by the owners and enabled by the “community center” leader, Airbnb. The City was fortunate enough to be able to access this community in a time of need. (Check out Airbnb’s page devoted to Sandy here https://www.airbnb.com/sandy)
Another area of collaboration the community has provided, is the field of resources and education. There has been an explosion of online programs and websites devoted to furthering our education (in many cases free of charge) in a variety of topics. One can easily find courses to learn about computer science, economics, math, and english related topics.
It is no secret that budget cuts are rampant across the country. These cuts have naturally extended into some of the core services we have become accustomed to. An example of a service affected is our library system. Libraries have been shut down and severely affected by the financial constraints. This is clearly a significant problem, as it directly affects our education.
Perhaps collaborative consumption can save the day though! If we utilize our communities, we will find that we still have a tremendous amount of resources. We could essentially create a library made up of our community resources. We could share anything with one another with just a website. No need for a physical location nor expensive inventory. It would not be a perfect system (by any means), but it would be an effective use of the community’s resources to fill an essential need.
So while the modern day “rags to riches” journey for hundreds of Collaborative Consumption continues, let’s not forget that such methods can solve communal and societal problems as well.