The Sharing Economy

Thu, 27 Nov 2014

About a month ago, I was lucky enough to attend the launch of a new report into the sharing economy, “Design for Sharing” by Ann Light and Clodagh Miskelly (which I’ve now read). It was a thought provoking talk and report, and my view of the subject has been broadened, so this blog post is the result - if you’re interested in learning more you can download the report at

The Sharing Economy is something that I am interested in, and I had listened to quite a few interviews and podcasts on companies like TaskRabbit, airbnb and Uber, which are often described as being exemplars of the sharing economy.

The report calls us to think about activities that are being shared or could be shared, in a broader way than many (including me) had been thinking.  This makes sense to me, and I propose assessing activities through three key questions:

Now we have those questions, we can think about how best to structure activities to optimise resource allocation and promote positive wider impact. I don't believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach, and invariably there will be a combination of market-based and not-for-profit approaches.

The report made a particularly valid point that markets look after themselves, and when setting up economics, we are often too quick to jump to a market system. We would do well to consciously remind ourselves of opportunities for sharing/gifting, as these are less likely to happen without conscious effort and drive, or what the authors call ‘Designing for Sharing’.

An aside: technology
Sharing has been going on forever, but technology obviously does offer opportunities to identify opportunities for sharing (or other forms of resource optimisation), or for reducing risk. While these can enable more sharing to occur, this can reduce the wider benefit. For example, by anonymising sharing and removing the need for trust to be developed, you are likely to reduce the relationship/community development benefits.