In many ways, the ideas behind the sharing economy have always existed – to share is to be human and there have always been forms of sharing.
However, innovations in technology have been fundamental to the growth of the sharing economy. Technology has given the sharing economy the ability to grow as well as a method to connect and share with strangers on a scale never previously imagined – across geographical boundaries with people whom we wouldn’t ordinarily have reason to come into contact.
Technology has also enabled the identification of surplus and idle assets and has created a means to connect these assets to those who need these resources the most. Without technology, this simply could not happen.
The sharing economy is evolving and changing all the time. Through these changes, we will see the impact of disruptive ideas.
People are figuring out how they can participate in the sharing economy, what it means to their lives, and how it can be applied in different contexts such as to communities and business.
I think some of the changes that we are likely to see in the future are ways in which the sharing economy is being adapted to benefit people and planet. We have seen the rise, for example, of platform cooperatives such as Airbnb and now we are seeing the rise of new platform cooperatives that are creating value for its members and those who are delivering the platform cooperative’s services themselves.
And though these new platform cooperatives provide an anecdote in terms of what we have seen in the bigger brands in the sharing economy, their value is still retained within a small group of investors and shareholders. This approach means that power, resources and value are shared with those who create it. What this ends up doing is creating a bigger network effect and these kinds of businesses will be able to grow even faster and more sustainably, look and feel very different, and the user experience will be better because the users will share in the value creation.
In general, businesses in the sharing economy are moving towards social impact and social value creation. This means businesses will become purpose-driven in the sharing economy. Until now, these businesses have been relatively small. That does not mean that some of the bigger brands do not create social value, but these will be the businesses that put the social purpose into the front seat.