The Sharing Economy is an area that has touched many people’s lives in recent years. With the development of innovative and pioneering organisations such as Ebay, Couchsurfing, and later on home swapping platforms that allows people to book rooms in the houses of others, rather than use hotels, and platforms that provide a car service through a collaborative platform, benefits are being felt by some.
According to Balaram (2015) writing for the RSA, the RSA defines the sharing economy as:
“A sector wherein users – both consumers and workers – create communal value through capitalising on their individual assets or resource, typically through using online platforms to enable access to goods or services.”
The RSA acknowledges that other types of sharing economy operate in the physical world rather than online. However, it needs to carefully define what it means by the sharing economy, as it is launching an exploration of the sharing economy. Given that online platforms have allowed sharing activities to scale to a phenomenal level, those sharing economy activities that allow people to share online are considered the most important for its research.
Given the rapid development of the technology, the RSA has become increasingly interested in how it is possible for support to be available during these times of disruptive change. The RSA acknowledges that there has been a lot of interest in these models, and it believes that they have significant potential.
In particular, their interest extends to the fact that the population of the globe is increasing at a tremendous speed, and how the sharing economy can help to ensure that resources are available for those that need them, especially finite resources. In their view this means that there needs to be a transparent discussion about the sharing economy and all of the different stakeholders that have an input. Stakeholders are considered to be consumers, employees or workers, the government and communities, but the environment and the economy must also be considered.
Of note, it is argued that governments have not been able to keep up with the developments in these fields, and there has been difficulty legislating against shared economy platforms. While there may be some need for regulation there also needs to be a trade off so that innovation is encouraged for solutions that offer value. One of the challenges right now is that the USA, Europe and the UK all have different ideas on how these platforms should be governed and managed, and the RSA would like to see a more “collaborative and consultative” approach to legislating in these areas.
While users and workers have the biggest input to the sharing economy and its benefits, there is a need to engage with them and understand their views. At the same time, any solid research into this area also needs to engage community leaders, policy makers, entrepreneurs, investors, insurers and designers. The RSA is encouraging people to get involved, and it has created a stakeholder page for this purpose. If you have a strong view it may be worth stating it so that it becomes encompassed into the research.
One of the immediate goals of the research is to introduce a new frame that will help people to better comprehend the sharing economy. This will enable better opportunities to look at the ways in which such organisations that facilitate sharing can be regulated and how such businesses can be governed. It is envisaged that this will lead to more cooperative approaches being drawn up in this area. The RSA expects to release the frame in early December.
Overall, the organisation plans to work with experts that will help it to better understand the sharing economy. It has engaged Benita Matofska, of Compare and Share who is the global ambassador for the sharing economy. She also is the founder of The People Who Share movement. The work will also include the expertise of Michel Bauwens who is the director of P2P foundation, Neal Gorenflo who co-founded Shareable, and Peers CEO, Shelby Clark. The organisation will be focusing on three cities in its research, namely Amsterdam, London and San Francisco. The research also includes a Fair Share brief in the RSA Student Design Awards which is a competition to drive social change design. It will be fascinating to see where all of this leads, and what recommendations the RSA arrives at.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.