The economy of sharing.

Words by Disrupts Magazine

Benita Matofska is chief sharer and founder of Compare and Share, and a global sharing economy expert. She explains in a few words how businesses latest craze 'sharing' actually works. Action...

What is it?

The Sharing Economy is an economic system built around the sharing of human, intellectual and physical resources. The term is often used for businesses that enable people to access rather than own goods such as car clubs like Zipcar or peer-to-peer accommodation sites like Airbnb.

In reality though, the Sharing Economy is much broader than that. It's a hybrid economy that includes different kinds of value exchange such as swapping, freecycling, alternative currencies and timebanks. It signals a cultural shift away from hyper consumption and a 'me' based society to a 'we' based society where community and connections matter. The real Sharing Economy is purpose driven and puts people and planet at its heart. The 'sharing' refers to the sharing of resources (human, physical, intellectual) and different kinds of value exchange.

There are now over 7,500 Sharing Economy sites worldwide and this number is growing daily. They range from for-profit companies valued at billions, to local community initiatives run by volunteers.

SO, WHO BENEFITS?

The media has focused on the economic value of the Sharing Economy  our recent report 'What we know about the Global Sharing Economy' revealed that it's growing faster than Facebook, Google and Yahoo combined. But considering just the economic value, only tells part of the story. When you car share, you lower carbon and connect with others; when you exchange pre-loved goods, you divert from landfill and extend the lifecycle of the product. When you divert surplus food to people living in food poverty, you save lives.

By providing more people with access to goods and services (it costs far less to access shared goods than to own them - you just pay for what you use, not for what you don't) a wide range of people benefit. A recent piece of research carried out by Arun Sundararajan from NYU Stern found that people from low income communities benefit three times more (from the Sharing Economy) than others. When you just pay for use, the cost is much lower and therefore more affordable. The Sharing Economy also offers a range of employment opportunities, with greater access to flexible work.

DO WE NEED IT?

The Sharing Economy enables people to access things they couldn't afford to own and demonstrates ownership is redundant - after all, it makes no sense to own things you don't use. We live on a planet with finite resources and a growing population, so sharing resources is an inevitability - that's why the smartest businesses know that if they build their business models around the sharing of resources they're future-proofing their businesses. Put simply, it's smart to share.


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