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The Collaborative Economy
When Lucy Shea of UK firm Futerra used the term “swishing” in 2000 to describe ad hoc clothes swapping between friends, she may not have envisioned the concept extending to highly organized, world-wide exchanges of goods and services between complete strangers. Today, the Collaborative Economy has reached its “swishing point” and is considered one of the Top 5 Trends to Watch in 2014. Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies, describes the Collaborative Economy as “the next phase of social business.” The Collaborative Economy, predicated on trust between people, sharing rather than owning resources, distributed power and sustainability, allows us to believe the world is rotating again on a familiar and precious axis, even if the technologies powering it (like Bitcoin, 3-D printing, and geo-location) make us slightly nervous.
I recently attended the first Resilient Summit: Exploring the Rise, Impact and Opportunity of the Collaborative Economy in Kansas City, Mo. co-hosted by Jeremiah Owyang and Ben Smith, principal, Social: IRL. It was held in Union Station, home to Kansas City’s Science Center and Maker Studio. It had the intimacy of a retreat for early adopters and the intensity of a movement about to blow the doors off.
Here are some of the takeaways that most inspired or surprised me:
- Brands collaborating with start-ups: Large brands are realizing they‘d better adapt or be disintermediated. Marriott Hotels now certifies Airbnb homes as Marriott extensions. In 2013, Airbnb had 300,000 listings, compared to Marriott’s 535,000 rooms worldwide.
- Physical world collaborating with digital: On Valentine's Day, Uber teamed up with ProFlowers to offer 15 percent off orders made with the ProFlowers iPhone app using the code UBER. The campaign had its own hashtag #LittleThings so customers could share their experiences on Twitter.
- Libraries collaborating with Makers: Nashville’s Public Library redefined its mission as a learning center by becoming a hub for local makers. According to USA Today, “Makers pump $29 billion into the economy each year. “ It’s no wonder the White House announced it is hosting a Maker Faire later this year.
- Startups collaborating with community: In Boston, organizations like The Grommet have quietly reimagined a new collaborative marketplace since 2008. This March, The Grommet hosts its Second Annual Product Pitch Contest, where winners earn a product launch and crowd-funding campaign. The event includes a hackathon, where local students crowdsource a solution to a real community need.
The Global Solutions Networks
Since the historic Bretton Woods gathering after World War II, We the People have expected institutions like the United Nations, IMF, G8 and World Trade Organization, to assume responsibility for fixing the world’s greatest problems. But as the world’s ills grow more unwieldy, and reasonable solutions seem inconceivably out of reach, it’s obvious this nation-state model has not delivered on the promises we made for it.
We can debate how we ever thought that governments, defined by economic competitiveness and political unilateralism would be the vanguard of a global consciousness, but that’s the future we saw out of our past at the time. Now, due to the participatory power of the internet, combined with the international scale and scope of businesses, “We no longer need government officials to convene for the rest of us to align our goals and efforts,” according to Don Tapscott in the March 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review.
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