To paraphrase Plato - austerity is the mother of invention and one invention moving from revolution to movement is the share economy.
The share economy is transforming the way we consume, work, and travel and like all economic concepts is based on supply and demand. On one side, individuals with short-term spare capacity from which they can profit, and on the other side individuals needing a short term solution to a specific problem. Zipcar for example is a membership based car sharing club, which provides instant convenient access to the fleet of Zipcar's own vehicles parked throughout cities in the UK, the the rest of the week or perhaps a frequent business traveller is happy to rent her pad out using lovehomeswap while she's away and make some extra cash.
Airbnb, is the daddy of the share economy and while it is the most famous it is by no means the only company acting as intermediary between the "haves" and the "wants". Hundreds have popped up in the last few year.
As more people join the collaborative consumption space we will find ourselves able to lend, or borrow, everything from garden tools or vacuum cleaners to our time and talent. The critical mass is building quickly.
Peer to peer lending has become mainstream, so mainstream that Crowdcube, the world's first equity crowdfunding website has been authorised by the Financial Services Authority. Where there is one, there will always be more. The sharing economy is clearly not a blip.
Consumers are seeking out cheaper and more social ways to get the things they need and the things they need doing. There are environmental and lifestyle reasons to participate and with the domestic sharing economy valued at £22.4 billion, in austerity Britain we are likely seeing the beginnings of a real change assisted by technology.
Technology provides scale and accessibility and social media provides the vehicle to conduct due diligence in the form of likes, subscriptions, feedback, reviews and, ratings. Our increasingly large digital footprint provides a basic foundation upon which we can build a (fairly) accurate picture of an individual and their reputation, allowing us to determine which relationships we wish to pursue.
As we enter a more "trust" based economy we move closer towards understanding the importance of community and of knowing our neighbours' names. A modern version of the past. Interestingly the intersection of technology, social media and the financial crisis would be far less potent if not for another element providing the alchemy; young people with a different outlook and different concerns.
Generations grow up with different perspectives and the attitudes of generation Xs and Ys are pivotal to the success of the shared economy. It is their values and views of the world which will make or break the burgeoning mutiny against business as usual. Further upping the stakes for success, is that fact that neither generation can rely on the job security and asset accumulation that prior generations could rely upon and so new ideas are of critical importance.
Xers strive for the work-life balance and are inclined to be free agents. The idea of making money off possessions and being able to outsource unpleasant or undesireable tasks, assembling flat packed furniture or walking the dog, would appeal greatly to this collective.
For Generation Y, it is a return to traditional values and a strong sense of community which would appeal. The idea of leveraging trust and sharing profit naturally fits with the millenials' view of how the world should be. Millenials have never bought a newspaper - they catch the news on twitter, and they use Spotify and Netflix rather than buying music and DVDs.
Xers and Ys are culturally programmed for this new paradigm and as they become the most dominant economic force in the world we can be sure of one thing - things in the marketplace are changing forever.
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