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Why We Should Be More Preoccupied With The Sharing Economy Than Brexit


Party conference pageantry is over for another year. For nearly a month, the political chatter has been dominated by Brexit and ministers on manoeuvres. But, listening to the speeches, you’d barely know we’re in the midst of a 21st century industrial revolution.

The Business Secretary Greg Clark mustered only this: “The Taylor Review [Matthew Taylor’s government review of modern working practices] makes us the first country to think seriously about how the gig economy can drive economic success – while safeguarding the rights and conditions of people who work in it.”

In reality, the time for ‘thinking’ and ‘imagining’ is over and whilst politicians ruminate over how to respond, the revolution has already happened.

Meanwhile, his shadow and Labour’s “rising star” Rebecca Long-Bailey, did at least nod to technological change and the need for an appropriate political response. “Imagine if the technology which allows us to hail a taxi or order a takeaway via an app was shared by those who rely on it for work”, she said. “They would have the power to agree their own terms and conditions and rates of pay, with the profits shared among them or reinvested for the future.”

In cities, towns, businesses, communities and countries across the world, the Sharing Economy continues its disruptive march, delivering the biggest societal shift since the Industrial Revolution. Valued at over $250 billion globally, but predicted to rise to over $3 trillion in the next few years[1] what was initially considered a passing trend, is starting to affect every aspect of our daily lives. So – whilst we are transfixed with all things Brexit and figuring out how to respond to technological changes, something much more significant is changing the way we think, live and do business. Ignore it at your peril.

5 ways in which the Sharing Economy is impacting our lives

  1. Future of Work: Consider that within the next 5 years, half of the UK’s working population will be freelance[2]. The gig economy is appealing to a generation who are choosing to access the type of work they want, when they want it. The idea of a 9-5 job for life is fast disappearing, with lines between work and life becoming blurred. Rather than working to live, in a Sharing Economy, you live the life you love and pay for it by doing the things you love. Smart phones have untethered workers from the shackles of their desks; social media connects people across boundaries and Sharing Economy gig sites make finding that work you love much, much easier.

  1. Future of Housing: The numbers say it all: we’ve reached peak home ownership and with 1 in 4 rented homes in the UK expected by 2021, shared housing is fast becoming the norm. Millennials are choosing ‘co-living’ models such as WeLive and The Collective where they can not only access shared resources, facilities and co-working, but can be part of a community. But this trend isn’t just restricted to the young. Recent studies show that the number of people living in flatshares between the ages of 55 and 64 has risen by a whopping 343 per cent. What’s more, the over 65s have seen a rise of over 600 per cent[3], with projects such as High Barnet’s Older Women’s Co-Housing catering for specific needs. It’s clear that the future of housing is shared.

  1. Future of Eating: Meal sharing is a trend that is changing the way we eat. With sites such as VizEat, Mealsharing and EatWith, we can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in an array of locations from other people’s homes to previously abandoned buildings. Entrepreneurs are enjoying social dining networking platforms such as Tablecrowd whilst up and coming chefs get to try out their culinary skills on strangers with WeFiFo. But the food sharing revolution isn’t just confined to the middle classes. We’re seeing an upsurge in apps tackling food waste such as Olio where you can share your leftovers or find food that isn’t needed by others. Fareshare is a social enterprise that diverts perfectly good food from landfill to people living in food poverty. Last year they delivered 28 million meals in the UK to people who needed feeding the most.

  1. Future of Money: With over £25 billion raised globally on crowdfunding sites, the ability to access finance has never been greater. From donation based sites such as Kickstarter, to equity platforms such as Crowdcube, if you have a project, product or idea you want to get off the ground, crowdfunding is democratising the world of money. But it’s not only how and where we can access money that’s witnessing huge disruption; currency itself is being overhauled. From Bitcoin to the Bristol Pound, from Echoes where you trade your skills rather than pounds and pence, the whole concept of money is being turned on its head. In a Sharing Economy all value is counted, from economic value to social and environmental value, providing a more efficient, transparent and sustainable economy.

  1. Future of Health: Incredible as it may sound, even our health has a shared future. From Cohealo, a technology company that helps health providers share medical equipment, to iHelp, a network which connects first aiders and first responders to save lives in emergency situations. We’re not just sharing our medical equipment and life-saving skills, we’re also sharing our health data to help others. Patients Like Me is a platform that enables people with chronic health conditions get together to share information with others living with disease. In the Netherlands, WeHelpen, connects volunteers to others who need support. Aside from tackling loneliness and building community bonds, the platform is helping the elderly stay in their homes longer.

The Sharing Economy was born out of the 2008 recession and a need to do more with less. Now 28% of the global adult population are participating with figures predicted to double within the next year.[4] We may be more focused on Brexit than Bitcoin, but the reality is that the Sharing Economy is having the most dramatic impact on our lives and will continue to do so.

The leaders of this new economy aren’t politicians - but the general public, the crowd themselves and there’s no stopping anyone from participating. Indeed, the future is shared.

[1] Sharing Economy Primer, July 2017, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

[2] Spera Report 2017, Small Business Trends.

[3] 2017

[4] Crowd Companies, USA

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