Collaboration and sharing ideas are not new concepts but this approach is having a new lease of life, particularly in the United States. But how can the shareable network help improve the economic situation and create stronger communities? I interview Neal Gorenflo, co-founder of Shareable, a nonprofit news, action and connection hub for the sharing transformation, and co-editor of the Share or Die: Voices of the Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis to find out more. For more information see my book review.
How has the book been received?
Share or Die readers have responded well to the frank and intelligent reflections by our young writers about the complex world they find themselves in. We hoped it would be a good and helpful read for young adults, and thankfully it is for most.
Do you feel the world is becoming better at sharing, if so in what ways?
The world is becoming better and worse at sharing. Large corporations have removed almost all barriers to accumulating even more wealth and power, and what’s taken comes at the expense of ordinary people. At the same time, people are turning to each other for help, reviving old ways of sharing, and creating new ones too. This is being driven by need, the desire for community and also new technologies. In fact, there’s never been a better moment to create a radically democratic economy. Shareable exists to encourage people to seize this opportunity.
Do you see cities being the greater focal point for the sharing economy in the future? What chance to rural communities have?
Cities are an important focal point because now over 50% of humans live in one, and that proportion is predicted to grow quickly. There’s a huge opportunity for impact. That said, we have a lot to learn from rural areas, which offer many proven models for sharing resources. For instance, consumer, marketing and other types of co-operatives underpin much of the rural US economy. Cities would do well to invest heavily in co-operative development like rural areas have. Co-operatives can help cities create good jobs, affordable housing and a healthy food supply among other things.
How is the non-profit sector contributing to the shareable economy?
The non-profit sector might be the original sharing economy. In the US, about 9% of jobs are created by non-profits and they bring in around $300 billion a year in donations. That’s a lot of sharing! They could do more, however, by sharing more themselves and encouraging their stakeholders to share more as well. They can help themselves and their supporters thrive by sharing.
Social media sets the tone for people to engage and share – can this philosophy be transferred to other sectors of the economy?
Yes, I think it already is. Social media is a persuasive technology. It teaches people the power of sharing and collaboration. Once people experience small successes online, they naturally think about how they can apply sharing in other parts of the lives, including how they manage tangible assets like cars and their homes. It’s not a big stretch conceptually to go from sharing a video to sharing a ride, and all the new sharing economy service play on this. They use the grammar of social media to help people share tangible assets in the real world.
You call Generation Y ‘Generous Y’ – why do you think this?
It’s the first generation raised on the Internet where sharing is a key practice. And they’ve been raised with a high awareness of the crisis-filled world we live in. I believe they’re predisposed to share and care.
Changing the model/ structure of economies and peoples’ behaviour is complex and is going to take time – do you think it can be done?
It’s already happening. Moreover, I’m not wasting my time with predictions or cynicism. I’m committed to making it happen. I invite people to join in, get creative and together make an economy we can live with, one that brings out the best in people, serves everyone’s needs, and does so within earth’s natural limits. We’re still in the early days of this shift, but through new technologies and collaborative processes we can scale solutions more quickly than ever before.
What’s next for you and your organisation?
In 2014, we’ll start bringing those who want to make their communities more shareable together. To help set the stage, we’ve just released a new report, Policies for Shareable Cities, which outlines key policies citizens can put in place to make their communities even more shareable. Drop me a line if you’re interested in participating in our sharing network – firstname.lastname@example.org