We delve into the definition of a sharing economy, what it entails and how we can all benefit from its growing popularity.
The sharing economy is an approach to living and sourcing goods and services, built on online platforms and networks, and governed by peer to peer sharing. Airbnb and Uber are some of the most famous, and largest, examples of what is also often referred to as a gig or collaboration economy. Very often it relies on utilising something already purchased, and lending or renting it to another person. The sharing economy is built on the concept of trust, involving as it does renting out your home to strangers for a week, or picking up passengers in your car for lift sharing.
An approach to living and sourcing goods and services, built on online platforms and networks. Image by Bench Accounting.
The benefits of sharing
Affordability: peer to peer sharing cuts out the expensive, rigid middle man. Crowdsourcing platforms, for example, cut out banks with their interest rates, and approval processes and regulations. The lift sharing app, BlaBlaCar, connects drivers and passengers in order to split the price of petrol for a journey. This makes travel more convenient and affordable for everyone involved, and cuts out non existent or outdated public transport networks that can not keep up with demand.
Flexibility: you can choose how and when you want to engage with the gig economy. You can choose to rent out your home, for example, either for extra money or to prevent it sitting empty while you are away. You can choose to sell unwanted items on eBay, both to see them get a second chance of life, while making money at the same time. It also enables increasing numbers of people to work more flexibly too.
Challenges consumerism: makes more things available to more people, while at the same time promoting inclusivity and a commitment to fairness. The cost of traveling overseas, for example, has been revolutionised by Airbnb as it competes with often expensive hotels in major cities. It has also enabled people to earn while they travel, by renting out their home.
Creative & Innovative: existing as it does mainly in a digital sphere, the sharing economy is the domain of startups, at least in the beginning, as they seek new and creative ways to improve the sharing of goods and services. This has led to the setup of many new businesses driven by their desire to find a better way to live and to do business.
Commitment to sustainability: the sharing of goods, means we are producing less and reusing more, key tenets of a sustainable lifestyle. The platform, Mooch, allows people to share pretty much anything- from tools for the home, to clothes for a special event. Rather than buy new all of the time, or buy an item for one time use, we can share goods within communities and networks.
The sharing economy has expanded to include almost all aspects of our lives, from how we work, to how we live, what we wear, and how we travel.
This will include how we work, to how we live, what we wear, and how we travel. Image by Nextbike.
It now includes many approaches to living that are increasingly mainstream: co-living, co-working and shared working spaces, lift sharing, second hand clothes selling, to name just a few examples.
The other side of the coin
The sharing economy is not without its faults. There are concerns that the rise of the gig economy, in some cities, has actually widened income and equality gaps. The success of home sharing apps has pushed many landlords in large cities into short term renting, leading to a lack of supply in the housing market and a consequent increase in prices. There are also concerns that the flexibility of many gig economy employers is leading them to avoid providing workers with the protection of permanent work contracts and all of the related benefits. But whether these are teething pains that are unavoidable when piloting a new way of doing things, or inherent flaws with the system remains to be seen. They can, however be corrected.
Either way the sharing economy is now a large part of many of our lives. How it will evolve in the future, remains to be seen. But it is possible that it will return to something that exists more strongly on a neighbourhood level, allowing people within communities to share goods, spaces, skills and services in a way that is more affordable, and equal.
Companies are working toward correcting flaws and improving shared economy systems. Image by Smartworks.
At Vonder we believe in anything that creates connections between people, and encourages a more sustainable approach to living. These are core tenets of our approach to evolved co-living, across our co-living locations in London, Berlin and Warsaw.