A sharing economy is really a reinvention of how we do business and live life. The concepts are not new, but they are not currently mainstream. As the good folks at the Sharing Economy Law Center wrote in their legal treatise, “This new economy facilitates community ownership, localized production, sharing, cooperation, small scale enterprise, and the regeneration of economic and natural abundance.” The “sharing economy” is also referred to as the “cooperative economy”, “new economy”, or “grassroots economy”.
Sharing, whether that’s possessions, knowledge, skills, resources or values, has been the basis for societal life from the very beginning. For example, for indigenous tribes in the US, sharing was a complete way of life. There was no such thing as individual property ownership. Everyone shared and took care of the land, and roles within the tribes were shared. Sustainable practices that honored the land and animals enabled people to live together for thousands of years. The trend in modern society has been to move away from sharing, but with populations growing and resources depleting, the time is now to come together to embrace the power and potential of sharing within our communities. There is a conscientious and positive spirit that goes hand-in-hand with sharing.
As a general matter, we can do more with less if we share. If we share knowledge and skills, we can solve problems. If we share resources, we can make sure everyone has enough to eat and live comfortably. If we share our possessions, we don’t need to buy (consume) or make as much and hence reduce our energy and raw material consumption. We also do not have to house all the items individually if we share. If we share ownership in businesses, then we empower people. If we share our time and value all person’s time equally, then we empower one another. If we share the excess of what we grow or make, then it does not go to waste, but rather goes to someone who appreciates it. Sharing is a give and take. It’s not charity, it is reciprocal. It is empowering!
As a sharing economy lawyer in Ohio, my role is to make possible (and legal!) sharing projects such as community energy, urban farms, cooperatives, social enterprises, maker-spaces, worker-owned co-ops, co-housing, time banks, local currencies, and many more inspired initiatives.
“The Sharing Economy is about sustainable futures and offers an opportunity for organisations to rethink their structures, relationships with their workers, investors, partners and competitors to grow into the future. That means finding other definitions of value and corporate objectives…any organization, in any sector, of any scale can participate in the Sharing Economy. It’s just an efficient way to operate, it has social and environmental value and companies are financially more sustainable.” From Clare Kandola, Sharing Economy Consultant, London, UK within the book, Generation Share: the change-makers building the Sharing Economy (Great book by the way!).