Guest blog by Justin Havre: How the Sharing Economy is Changing the World

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This blog post has been written by an external writer and Liftshare member, Justin Havre. If you’d be interested in writing a blog for us, get in touch with Lex at Liftshare HQ.

In many ways, the modern world looks like a model of cooperation. The new trend has been termed the “sharing economy,” sometimes shortened to “shareconomy” or described as collaborative consumption. Although not a new concept, the internet has spawned widespread interest and given birth to new ways to share — almost everything.

A book by Arun Sundararagan, published in 2016, The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism, takes a look at how modern digital society has transformed all aspects of life and culture, government and business. The effects are hard to miss.

Sharing Is All Around Us

There are Meet-up groups on every imaginable subject — from bee-keeping to beer-making, from fly-fishing to flying aeroplanes, for young entrepreneurs and enterprising retirees. A large part of the appeal is that participants share experiences and learn from one another. The benefits of non-competitive networking are legion, and the phenomenon is global, according to Sundararagan. In a world so digitally connected, however, it is sometimes difficult to forge face-to-face alliances. Opportunities that bring people together physically fill a need.

But there are other factors at work as well. Environmental concerns, a turbulent economy, political unrest, sustainability, high price tags on everything from shoes to homes, energy and climate change, a tight job market, diminishing natural resources, the Millennial generation’s collective philosophy – the list of concerns is long and varied. The result? More sharing on every level.

While the internet still manages to inspire, fascinate and provoke fear in almost equal measure, there is no doubt that it has redefined commerce.

Shifting Business Structures

A 1987 article by a group of MIT professors introduced the concept of crowd-based capitalism as a move away from traditional “hierarchies” of business structure and the growth of primary “markets” based in electronics. At the time it was considered startling. But, according to Sundararagan, it has largely proved to be accurate.

Airbnb is a prime example of the new experience. Begun initially as a “peer accommodation” platform, it is a world away from the concept that popularised the “time-share” condo of the previous generations. Renting out rooms or entire homes is an extra income option today for property owners who would previously have been inclined to sell – a process that can be a challenge for both seasoned and first-time sellers.

Other examples are found in the transportation sector. Liftsharing, a modern response to a number of different concerns: pollution and congestion, stress and time saving, financial and social, is also a digitally conceived and conducted business enterprise. In the digital age, new commercial ideas gain wide acceptance or are derailed on almost instantaneous public response and review.

Crowd-Based, but Individual

While the idea of sharing opportunity may be a deep-seated tradition, crowd-based capitalism has taken on new life. Crowdfunding as a means of sharing risk, funding startups, and providing capital for causes affects the business landscape in major ways. In a worldwide economy where physical place is less important than digital space, the solopreneur and micropreneur seem destined to thrive. That may seem counter-intuitive in an age of “sharing,” and it is one of the challenges.

“The accommodation, transportation, and freelance labor sectors have been the earliest to see big changes induced by crowdbased capitalism,” writes Sundararagan, “but commercial real estate, health care provision and energy production and distribution will soon follow.” Whether the sharing economy, viewed in these ways, signals a change in work habits as important as the industrial revolution remains to be seen. But as Sundararagan writes, the “key questions” are whether or not the new world of work will be a better one, and “what can we do to nudge things in the right direction.”

About the author:
Justin Havre is an estate agent based in the US, with a keen interest in Liftshare and the wider sharing economy. He’s a Liftshare member but has yet to successfully share a lift – so join the site now to find him and share your travels!

Author Lex Barber

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