“The Age of Communities creates more choices”. For me, that’s the most important lesson out of the first day of OuiShare Fest 2014.
By: Claartje Vogel
A big circus tent is set up next to the Canal de Saint-Denis in Parijs. It’s the setting of OuiShare Fest 2014, first destination for the Crowd Expedition team. A good choice, because this is were all renowned speakers and experts about the Collaborative Economy gather. Visionairs, researchers and entrepreneurs from all over the world share their thoughts on the question how organizations should adapt in what OuiShare thinks might be “the Age of Communities”.
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The first speaker comes from Brasil and he’s the founder of several sharing platforms in Latin-America. For example websites for independent journalists and several online and offline platforms to facilitate collaboration between government, businesses and civilians. Tomás de Lara seems an interesting figure, but I found his presentation disappointing. De Lara started with some kind of meditation session and ask the audience to hug and get to know eighother. It was nice that we instantly got to meet new people, but unfortunately not much time was left for De Lara’s actual presentation. His main message was that many collaborative initiatives don’t need a business model, because the fact that they exist should be important enough.
Don’t blame the crisis
That’s definitely not the case for AirBnb, a company in the sharing economy with one of the most successful business models. Blogger Liam Bogaar (Rude Baguette) interviews Oliver Grémillon, head of AirBnb Europe and Africa. Grémillon had two years of experience at the home sharing platform. Even before AirBnb had an office in Paris, ten thousands of people were renting out their homes in the French capital. “The community grew thanks to word-of-mouth”, tells Grémillon. “At the moment Paris is one of the top-3 AirBnb-cities, next to New York and London. The city has more than 25.000 accomodations. French people are very open to the concept of sharing.”
According to Grémillon, the success of the sharing economy is partly caused by a new way of thinking, not by the crisis. For the new generation, owning stuff is far less important than for their parents. That’s what makes sharing appealing. The new generation thinks it’s a shame to leave their house empty when they go on a holiday. Thanks to this new way of thinking, AirBnb’s success will not cease after the crisis. At least, that’s what Grémillon thinks.
Unfortunately the head of AirBnb doesn’t really go into the question about problems concerning cityregulation. There’s a big chance the platform will have to deal with mayor restrictions in San Francisco and New York. It’ll be fine, says Grémillon: “Ignorance is our worst enemy. We understand there are rules, but when we can explain all of the advantages of renting out houses, cities will come around.”
It’s about choice
I thought Rachel Botsman was this day’s most inspiring speaker. She gave a well substantiated talk about the changing economie. Botsman is researcher and writer of the book What’s Mine is Yours about the sharing economy (Collaborative Consumption). “Definitions are very important”, she explains. “If we, the pioneers, cannot agree on the fundamental principles, how can we ever explain it to the rest of the world?”
Collaborative consumption is a global concept that involves sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping goods instead of buying them. This concept has been in communities for thousands of years, but has recently gained popularity in the United States and Europe. TIME magazine has named collaborative consumption as one of the “10 ideas that will change the world.” Read more.
According to Botsman the overall similarity of collaborative initiatives is that they make power shift from institution to the people. “In traditional universities learning is bound by specific definitions and restrictions”, she explains. “Thanks to the new way of learning in communities, anyone can be a teacher. You can learn almost anything from anybody in the world.”
The most important asset is that everyone has access to knowledge thanks to platforms like Coursera. In the case of AirBnb, anyone can be a landlord and a tenant at the same time. Same goes for crowdfunding: anyone can be “the bank”, and anyone can get a loan. Botsman things banking is most vulnerable to the changing economy. “Banks are complex, provide limit access and people don’t trust them anymore”, she thinks. “But I don’t believe the old organizations will disappear completely. The most important thing is that people gain more control about what they really need: food, knowledge, money.” In short: “the Age of Communities creates more choices”.