“A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly.” Desmond Tutu
Over 750,000 volunteers have signed up to help the UK’s NHS; an army of helpers in South Korea are ensuring the most vulnerable get what they need to survive, whilst in Iran, closed mosques have been turned into temporary spaces to sew face masks. From the largest volunteer effort since the Second World War, to unprecedented emergency government aid and collaborative technology tools used across sectors to share vital knowledge, the real Sharing Economy is powering society in the age of Covid-19.
Necessity is the mother of invention and right now there has never been a greater need to share -- safely of course. Though the Sharing Economy has been widely misunderstood and misrepresented as a series of Silicon Valley-backed tech ventures, I have long defined it as ‘a system to live by where we care for people and planet and share available resources however we can.’ In 2020, societal priorities are shifting, with the very definitions of who we see as valuable, changing: ‘key workers’ on the frontline saving lives, food providers enabling us to feed ourselves and communities coming together to support one another. Sharing and change-making has never been more vital to the economy and society at large.
The very tenants of a broken capitalist system are being challenged as they provide no antidote for this pandemic. As I see it, three types of necessary sharing are emerging in the time of Coronavirus:
From Australia’s Sikh community volunteers providing a lifeline to those in need to the ‘help I’m in quarantine’ group distributing food packages in the US the world over, individuals, communities and organisations are coming together to take action to help save lives.
Covid-19 has led many of us to stop in our tracks. Whilst adjusting to a ‘new normal’ of staying at home, we have good reason to be grateful for what we have, to re-evaluate what is really important, to slow down and to spend ‘quality’ time with our families. It’s notable that the planet has benefitted from this 'recess' with 75% fewer flights, car usage reduced to 1955 levels and the purchase of ‘fast fashion’ and other non-essential goods at an all-time low. The long term impacts on our behaviour are yet to be known, but many social analysts, community activists and campaigners for social change, believe life post-corona will never be the same.
'Social distancing’ is a term that two months ago would have meant little to most of us. Although it’s being fast replaced with the more accurate ‘physical distancing,’ our common understanding is that to stop the spread of Covid-19 and save lives, we have to take on a shared responsibility. This is by far the toughest type of sharing needed during this pandemic. It requires us to put others before ourselves, to make sacrifices, to change the way we live our lives and to put the saving of lives ahead of our own social lives. How well we are able to share responsibility will determine how many of us will survive this crisis.
At the time of writing, some 70,000 people have already lost their lives due to Covid-19, with over 1.2 million confirmed cases. By adopting these three critical forms of sharing, it is possible to flatten the curve, saving thousands if not millions of lives in the process, proving that the real Sharing Economy could indeed save some of us.
I'd love to hear your stories of shared action, shared understanding and shared responsibility. Do share with me @benitamatofska on Twitter or Instagram