A new trend is emerging that challenges the traditional approach to ownership where you buy something and own it for life.
This new trend is often called “the sharing economy,” but also referred to as the “peer-to-peer economy,” “mesh,” “collaborative economy,” and collaborative consumption.
In essence, the sharing economy signifies an end of ownership – buying and selling – in the way we know it. And this end of ownership can have big implications for all of us, if we choose to take advantage of it.
There are a number of benefits to employing the shared economies model. First, the sharing model is a more efficient use of our resources; it brings unwanted or potentially wasted items to market and finds someone who is in need or want of that particular item. This, in and of itself, reduces the need for new products to enter the marketplace.
Another advantage is that the sharing economy gives people more access to information. No longer do we live in a world where information has to come from one central point of contact; instead experts all over can share information with one another.
At the end of this article you’ll find an extensive list of companies and organizations involved in the sharing economy, so you can start taking advantage of this trend right away. Chances are you already have.
What is the sharing economy?
Sharing economies are systems designed around individuals, organizations, and businesses sharing their human and physical resources and reshapes the way things are created, distributed, traded and consumed.
Sharing economies grant access to all types of stakeholders including individuals, non-profit and governmental organizations as well private businesses. Anyone can participate actively as a buyer, seller, lender or borrower. The underlying principle behind the sharing economy is to connect people in a way that leverages their individual talents, abilities and contribution to society. By capitalizing on these unique qualities that people inherently have to offer society, we can create a more efficient and cost-effective economy that benefits all.
The sharing economy has emerged largely as the result of advancements in information technologies. Driven by the Internet, the sharing economy is driven by devices like cell phones and computers and perpetuated through open websites like social media, thereby enabling people to directly seek out or share their own goods and services. The result is that there are infinitely more ways to individuals, communities, governments and even private businesses to quickly connect with interested parties and capitalize on economic opportunities.
While technological advances like the internet were a main catalyst supporting sharing economies, another major driver was interest in sustainability. People, particularly in urban areas, became more conscious about the inherent waste in the consumer culture and became compelled to find new ways of purchasing goods and services – more compelled to purchase locally and to reuse goods rather than support major buy-sell businesses.
Some examples of successful models that represent the sharing economic including websites like eBay and Craigslist – organizations that provide a platform for individuals to share, barter and trade good and services without the need to purchase something newly manufactured or privately held. Beyond purchasing goods, sharing economy platforms can aid in the exchange of various services, such as finding accommodations or making carpool or other travel arrangements. And people can find other miscellaneous services, like dog walking and house sitting or massage therapists and running partners – the possibilities are endless.
The sharing economy model is predicated on having clearly defined rules and regulations in which stakeholders can agree upon and abide by. Effective protocols in the sharing economy should establish values that bring about trust, transparency, empowerment, and human connection.
Sharing economies has become most prevalent in urban areas where the majority of the planet’s population lives. Cities with densely pack populations have the ability to be more efficient with the exchange of goods, services, and information that those in more sparsely populated areas.
Three Types of Shared Economies in Practice
Generally speaking, shared economies can take three different forms.
The first type is one in which buyers pay to use a good or service without necessarily owning it outright. With this type of approach, buyers essentially rent a good or service. An example of this model would be Zip Car, whereby consumers who previously may have purchased a car instead rent a zip car for use as needed.
The second type of shared economy model revolves around reusing or recycling goods that were previously purchased at one point in time. With this type of model, sellers pass on their used goods to interested buyers. Examples of this are EBay and Craiglist.
Finally, some shared economy models simply allow for the exchange of non-tangible items. Instead, this approach provides a platform to connect individuals with one another based on their shared interests. For instance, interested parties may find one another online to form a running club or some other type of social group where shared talents or interests are expressed.
Proponents of the shared economy movement believe that this type of business model takes shape from some of our oldest human instincts – things like cooperation, sharing, individual choice and preference – are things inherent in us all and lend themselves to renting, bartering, trading, etc.
Want to jump straight into the sharing economy? To make it easy for you we’ve broken up the various platforms into a few different classes:
P2P Marketplaces are those platforms maintained by a third party host who manages, develops policies, and facilitates transactions that occur by interested buyers and sellers.
Airbnb is a website for people to rent out and find local lodging accommodations
JustShareIt is a peer to peer car rental place where people can rent a car locally
Krrb is a local marketplace for vintage items and antiques
Craiglist is a local classified ads section modeled after traditional newspaper classified sections that facilitates various types of local purchases and trades
Etsy is a website that supports local artisans and small businesses throughout the world
Ebay is an online auction website that enables users to bid on various products
ThredUp is a website that supports clothing consignment
Zip Car and Relay Rides are two websites that allow users to rent cars in their local area
Freecycle is a non-profit sponsored website that helps people give stuff away for free to locals in their area
Swaptree is a website allows users to swap various types of media, including CDs, DVDs, video games and more
uSell is a website that allows people to sell their used electronics
Copious is another website that allows users to give unwanted things for free to locals in need
BuyMyWardrobe is a website that allows people to buy and sell their clothing to one another
Lyft is a website that connects people looking for a quick carpool with drivers willing to give someone a lift
DogVacay is a platform that enables users to find dog sitters in their local area
Education marketplaces are platforms that enable people to sell or share their own expertise and earn money doing so. This model is unique, because buyers of a particular service no longer have to seek out one company providing a particular expertise; instead, anyone can share their specific talent or knowledge in a given area.
Italki is a website that teaches foreign language from native-speaking experts
StudySoup is a peer to peer study and tutor website
Udemy is another online platform for learning
Elance is a website that facilitates freelance work for writers, marketers, and website developers
Kashless is a website that offers users free financial advice
Mechanical Turk is a website that connects local mechanics with new business
Crowdfunding platforms are websites that allow individuals, businesses and organizations to raise money for or contribute to certain causes. Funding requests typically are related to helping individuals launch a new business idea and supporting artistic, civic, or charitable projects or needs.
Kickstarter is a global crowdsourcing website dedicated to help new business development related to various fields including art, design, dance, fashion, journalism, music, and photography
Indiegogo is another global crowdsourcing site that helps connect funders to ideas, charities and new business endeavors
Ushahidi is a crowdsourcing website dedicated to funding projects for social activism and public accountability
Innovation marketplaces are online arenas in which experts in various fields can share their knowledge on certain topics to solve various types of social problems.
Architecture for Humanity is a charitable site that brings architects together to offer design services for communities in need.
Innocentive is a forum for experts in the engineering, computer science, math, chemistry, land life and physical sciences to come together and share ideas related to “challenge problems,” that anyone can attempt to solve. The site gives cash prizes to those who best solve a problem.
The shared economy model is also reshaping the ways in which food is grown and distributed amongst communities. Many people, particularly those living in urban areas, don’t have enough land to grow their own food; as such, they must depend on grocery stores that import foods from all of the world as their food source. This predicament has given rise to a few new trends that are shaping the way food is consumed.
Land shares are arrangements whereby one party shares a plot of land that another party reserves or subscribes to in order to grow their own food. Landshares are often called “community gardens” or “community farms” and they are typically shared by schools, businesses and local community organizations. Many community farms are supporting lower income populations in urban areas to grant greater access to affordable healthy food sources.
Another variation of a land share that I’m sure you’re familiar with is the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) approach. With CSAs, people can purchase a food share that entitles them to a certain agreed upon amount of locally grow crops, like fruits, vegetables and even meat. This allows consumers to buy directly from a local farmer. Typically, a subscription includes a weekly or bi-weekly box of fruits and vegetables that are delivered directly to the subscriber.
Examples of food platforms include:
Landshare is a local landshare website whereby people can purchase plots of land that they can use for local gardening
Local Harvest is a CSA whereby subscribers sign up to receive weekly shipments of locally grown, in-season fruits and vegetables
Urban Gardenshare is a website that connects people with extra space in their gardens to share with people who lack access to a garden plot
- NeighborGoods is a platform that aids users in sharing various types of goods with one another
- Local Tools is a platform where users can share tools with one another, kind of like a tool library
There are hundreds, possibly thousands of ways, the shared economy model is taking root in communities throughout the United States and even worldwide. These new types of approaches are dispelling economic development as we once knew it and serving to make our economies more local, sustainable and interconnected.