The Disraeli Room

The Disraeli Room

Blog Post

The Sharing Economy: Using Technology to Change the World

10th June 2014

Benita Matofska, Chief Sharer at Compare and Share, starts off ResPublica's technology blog week

Identified by TIME Magazine as ‘one of the 10 Ideas that will change the world’, hailed by the Economist as a big trend with ‘immense potential’ and cited by Forbes as a new ‘disruptive economic force’; there’s no question that the Sharing Economy is making waves.

Back in 2011 when I founded The People Who Share, a campaign to build a Sharing Economy, people looked at me like an alien from Mars when I used the term. But within weeks of us first using the #sharingeconomy hashtag on Twitter, it was clear that this was no bomb, but rather a seismic shift in the way we think, live and do business.

We define this new economy as a ‘socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human and physical resource.’ Given that we live on a planet of finite resources with a growing population, it doesn’t take a maths genius to realise that the future will be based on sharing.

Starting with National Sharing Day in June 2012, I worked with a group of dedicated volunteers to launch what has become Global Sharing Day, the largest mass engagement campaign to raise awareness about the Sharing Economy. The day, held on June 1st this year reaches over 70 million people in 192 countries inspiring a range of activities from street food shares, to clothes swaps and skills exchanges. Last year, 4.62 million people around the world gathered to share food in their communities setting a world record for the greatest number of people sharing food in a single day. Captured on Sharing TV, the day engages over 300 partner organisations on every continent.

The task of raising awareness about the need for a Sharing Economy is significant. There are over £3.5 trillion worth of unused resources from empty properties to food and yet 40,000 people die each day due to lack of access to food, shelter and water. This disruptive economy uses technology to connect surplus with demand, creating a closed loop system that is sustainable and efficient. But a Sharing Economy does more than match ‘needs’ with ‘haves,’ there are a series of values outlined in our Sharing Manifesto that form the basis of this sustainable socio-economic system.

What’s clear is that there is an increasing cultural shift away from ownership towards accessing goods and services with a generation that I call, Generation Share. Generation Share are an on-demand generation who want to pay as they live. They see no point in owning a car that sits unused for 23 hours a day and would prefer to use a car club like Zipcar or access one of the 7,500 sharing platforms globally to find what they need, when they need it.

In the State of the Sharing Economy Report, we evidenced that in 2013, adults in the UK saved and earned over £4.6 billion with 65% of us accessing the Sharing Economy by buying and selling second-hand goods, using car clubs or clothes swaps. But 70% of consumers (or citizens as I prefer to call people) tell us that they would share more if it were easy.

What’s clear is that people need easy-to-use sharing tools, accessible online, on land and on-the-go. For this reason, I founded Compare and Share an innovative technology company that helps people and companies share and trade their spare assets. Winners of the Cabinet Office/ Nesta Innovation in Giving Fund, we built the world’s first comparison marketplace of the Sharing Economy, offering people the opportunity to find all 7,500 sharing sites all in one place. Starting with Car and ride sharing and more recently expanding to accommodation, we are building a complete marketplace and the go-to brand of the Sharing Economy, with a vision to open up the Sharing Economy in the same way that up the second-hand goods market, enabling sharing to become eBay opened ubiquitous.

Our corporate offer enables companies to turn idle resource or ‘waste’ into revenue with a current development of a corporate marketplace where companies can trade spare assets, generating additional revenues and delivering efficient use of resources. Currently we are looking for another 5 forward-thinking companies to be part of our ground-breaking pilot.

Sharing Economy technology has great potential to change and save lives. We’ve recently collaborated with Macmillan Cancer Support to build Team Up a peer-to-peer task-sharing platform that connects volunteers to run errands for people living with cancer.

In January this year we worked with Number 10 to put together a round table event looking at ways in which the government can support the Sharing Economy. I delivered a presentation on the future of the space and the opportunity for the UK, as leaders in this new economy to deliver not only economic benefit but significant social and environmental impact.

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