Neal Gorenflo, co-founder of Shareable

Can the sharing economy be a universal model?

My answer depends on two things. First, it depends on how the sharing economy is defined. Second, it depends on seeing the sharing economy as a political choice.

In the mainstream media, the sharing economy is defined as a shift to rental from ownership of goods. Most of the attention is focused on a few leading venture capital backed startups -- Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.

While disrupting ownership is a big deal, this is too narrow a definition for us at Shareable. We see a much more profound change underway. While governments and their multinational clients push for greater centralization of wealth and power, citizens around the world are developing radically democratic ways to produce, share resources, exchange value, finance, and govern themselves.

We see this shift happening in nearly every sector of society. Examples include open source software, coworking, hackerspaces, crowdfunding, new political parties and political software like LiquidDemocracy, cooperatives, credit unions, new digitial currencies, Creative Commons, local food systems emerging in regions around the world, and many more innovations that you can read about on Shareable. Some of these innovations are decades or even centuries old yet experiencing recent growth and many are new.

This shift reflects the need of ordinary people to work together to meet their needs as old institutions fail to do this.  It also reflects a new opportunity to exit capitalism as we know it because the means of production for a wide swath of economy is becoming accessible to ordinary people.  Bottom line, people have the need and also the means to begin serving themselves without the traditional middlemen – the government and big business.  A new economic paradigm is emerging -- commons-based peer production.

Is this feasible as a universal system? Yes, but citizens have to see this shift as a political choice first. The sharing economy as a universal model is only feasible if citizens wake upto the shift and shape it in their favor. It’s not just a choice of a new way to do things. The new way must be protected and institutionalized. In fact, this shift can go either way. It can make the already powerful even more powerful. Or it can benefit citizens the most. It will only benefit citizens the most if they shape it so. This is why we published, Policies for Shareable Cities, when we’re known as big supporters of grassroots sharing solutions.





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