Discussions and events that focus on sharing are becoming ever more mainstream in 2013, but the broad conversation that encompasses the sharing economy also poses some challenges - especially when we consider what sharing means in international terms.
As we edge towards the summer of 2013 the concept of the sharing economy is becoming ever more mainstream, as evidenced in a number of cover stories on the theme and many high profile events across North America and Europe. Tomorrow, London will host a one-day conference called The Shared Future which will be the first event in Europe to showcase how technology is allowing people and businesses to move towards a more efficient, democratic and sustainable economic model that is based on ‘resource access' rather than ‘asset ownership'. In June, Europe's largest tech conference called Le Web has also made ‘sharing' the theme of its London event. And among many other events beings hosted in different cities in the coming months, it will be the second year running for Global Sharing Day on 2nd June 2013, as pioneered by The People Who Share and other partners that are all founded upon the idea of promoting sharing in its various different forms (such as Shareable, OuiShareand Mesh Labs).
Without a doubt, now is the time to be talking about the need for greater sharing in our societies. But the conversation on sharing is still, in many ways, in its very early stages. What we appear to be witnessing is the tremendous versatility and diversity of this age-old concept, as well as the potential for sharing to have a dramatic impact on everything from the way we conduct business to the way that we relate to our neighbours and conduct our social lives.
But the broad church that encompasses the sharing economy also poses some challenges as more and more attention is focused on the social and practical implications of sharing. This was neatly summarised in an article by Ariane Conrad in Shareable recently that reviewed the fantastic OuiShare Fest in Paris last weekend that drew a crowd of 600 people from across Europe to network, have fun and help develop the growing influence of the collaborative and sharing economy. Talking of sharing with a capital ‘S', Ariane says:
"In its best moments, OuiShare Fest had me believing that Sharing is the answer to every problem we face, from sustainability (more sharing = less waste, less consumption of resources, less C02) to loneliness (it was striking to me how tech folks, once the most socially-awkward and sun-deprived of species, are so lovingly integrated here) to economic opportunities.
"...In other moments, things seemed more scattered and divisive than collaborative. There were tensions between those who see this as a space to create a profitable business to rival industry, those who herald an anti-establishment world of cooperative-ownership and equal distribution of resources, and a few who would prefer to keep the whole phenomenon free of politics and economics, more in the space of morality and values."
This perhaps underlines how the conversation on sharing has only just begun, and how much there is left to discuss - especially when we consider what sharing means in international terms with respect to the dramatic differences in living standards between rich and poor countries. It is one thing to hail what sharing means for social entrepreneurship and business innovation in the developed world, and quite another to think about the meaning of sharing in relation to global social justice and environmental sustainability. But for now, one thing is clear: sharing is officially en vogue. So let's everyone get involved in the emerging conversation!
Mais Oui, We Share, By Ariane Conrad [Shareable]
Share Spray: A New Way To Do Everything [a video by the Center for a New American Dream]
Facing the Future: Share to Survive, by Benita Matofska [guest post for Friends of the Earth]
Values and the Sharing Economy [published in Shareable]
Cultivating Intrinsic Values through Sharing [published by Share The World's Resources]
Photo credit: creativecommoners, flickr creative commons