This is third post in our series on the Sharing Economy. Part One explained how sharing services can help you save money. Part Two highlighted ways collaborative consumption can reduce waste and our impact on the planet. Today’s installment will demonstrate how participation in the sharing economy can boost local economies and rebuild important community ties.
The sharing economy is more than swapping clothes or finding a cheap place to stay on vacation. While saving money and reducing waste are pleasant by-products of a sharing lifestyle, they’re not the end goal. The most exciting, promising, and truly revolutionary thing about moving from a “that’s mine” culture to a “this is ours” mentality is a refocusing of our attention on what’s really important: each other.
Embracing collaborative consumption, especially peer-to-peer sharing, requires us to acknowledge the wants, needs, talents, and resources of those around us. Consumerism teaches us that everyone is competition. We compare ourselves to our peers, using ownership of material possessions as a measuring stick of self-worth. That kind of judgement won’t last in the sharing economy.
When liberated from the burden of ownership, we gain access to knowledge and resources, become more active citizens, and are supported by a network of friends and neighbors who collaborate to solve problems. Simply put, when people share, communities become stronger. Here’s how:
1. Restores Relationships
Whether it’s made up of neighbors on a cul-de-sac, members of a church, or far flung friends on a social networking site, community is what makes sharing economy possible. In fact, some have even suggested calling it “the relationship economy.” Unfortunately, we’ve become very isolated as a society. Sure, we talk with coworkers and hang out with friends. But when’s the last time you greeted a passerby or borrowed a cup of sugar from your neighbor? We’ve become withdrawn, reluctant to share our thoughts and feelings, never mind our precious possessions. But in order to swap, barter, or rent, we must initiate contact, negotiate terms, and sometimes, go out of our way for our fellow humans. This exercises our relationship muscle, and helps us reconnect with those we previously ignored.
2. Creates Stability
Whether it’s debt, unemployment, illness, or family issues, our communities are full of unstable families, just barely making it from day to day. When times our tough, collaborative consumption reminds us to utilize the wealth we have, and share it with others. Lending libraries, food swaps, ride sharing, nanny sharing, time banks and community supported agriculture allow those with limited liquid assets to access tools, food, transportation, child care, and perhaps even work with dignity. These sharing services require a small investment on the part of each member so that all can reap a big reward. Participants realize they are not alone, and that sharing is a shortcut to accessing what they need.
When people know and share with each other, they become unified. Instead of fearful isolation, sharing communities live with openness, generosity, and solidarity. Once we remember how awesome it is to be a part of each others’ lives, we’re more willing to become involved in other aspects of our communities as well. Being part of a community means sharing responsibility as well as rewards. The sharing economy encourages us to crowdsource solutions to community-wide problems as well as our own. All over the world, citizens are reengaging with their governments, looking for ways to get involved in the planning of budgets, support of local business, and development of neighborhoods. Sharing forces us to realize our similarities, and helps organize our efforts to realize common goals.