Friday, 29 september 2017 | Redacción CEU
Let's share! That is the premise over which the sharing economy concept is built, although not everybody looks at the supposed distributive formula favorably. The popularization of services through platforms like Uber, Blablacar, Airbnb or Wallapop have made this new economic model come out. The collaborative revolution captures the press headlines' attention but, do we know what it really consists of? Is it just a new business model or a whole change of system? Will we end up sharing everything in the future?
From sustainable and ecological models, such as repairing your toaster by an unknown in a "repair café" to ingenious and practical systems, like the agreement through a platform with a traveler to carry in his suitcase ham, a gift and the last Christmas forgotten jacket to your cousin Maria who lives on the other side of the country. Collaborative economics can take many and varied forms, but, what is hidden under this concept?
Its retractors consider it an aggressive competitive practice under the guise of benevolence that put at risk the traditional sectors viability –such as the taxi sector, one of its bigger critics–. Its standard bearers believe that it is an opportunity for both business and citizen empowerment –such as the advocates of cooperatives for the common good–. Fair or not, this new economic model has come strong enough to stay, at least, for a while. At the moment, this emerging economy moves about 28,000 million euros per year in Europe and represents the 1.4% of Spanish GDP. It is expected that in 2025 these figures rocket and, even, multiply.
Mine is yours and yours is mine
Its limits are not very defined and there is no clear consensus in its definition. In general terms, all seem to agree that it is a new economic model that is based on the exchange of goods or services between individuals. It can be online or offline, but is often based on digital platforms that play the intermediary role. Precisely, the technology has been key for its popularization and expansion.
The collaborative economy appears as an innovative response to market failures. In crisis times, money was an even more precious asset and the shared spending was an ingenious idea that allowed everybody to make ends meet. Young companies realized about the business opportunity and began to work on the development of exchange platforms that promoted that sharing economy. Since then, its users and customers share cars, bicycles, houses, wifi, furniture, routes, offices, professional services, knowledge and even umbrellas.
Among the main types of collaborative economy, we can highlight three:
- Pure collaborative economy: it is a relationship between equals, services or goods are shared or exchanged, for example, couchsurfing
- Between users and professionals: the claimant cannot offer a similar service or equivalent back, they need someone specialized
- Shared access: the service or product is offered for a certain time like carsharing or coworking