The Rise of Collaborative Consumption

In Rachel Botsman’s new book, What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, the general theme is that we’re shifting away from a society of hyper-consumption and equating personal self-worth with amount of material good accumulated, and instead to a world where our ability to access and exchange resources, develop a reputation, and build community and social capital takes precedence in how we choose to express who we are and what we choose to define us.

The authors give hundreds of examples of how people are finding new ways to share and exchange value – what they call ‘collaborative consumption’ – using social lending platforms (LendingClub, Prosper), open barter networks (ITEX, Bartercard), peer-to-peer coworking and currencies (Hub Culture), reuse networks (Freecycle), car sharing (ZipCar, GoGet), bike sharing, swap trading (SwapTree), and peer to peer rentals for plots of land (Landshare, a room for the night (Airbnb), or any other item you could imagine (Zilok)….

The idea is that it’s not just about creating more things anymore, but about thinking from a systems perspective and understanding how to find the balance in the relationship between business, sustainability, and consumption. Our planet can’t handle an endless supply of product creation, so the shift is underway for us to begin to design for participation, collaboration, and enabling new experiences….

  • The Internet enables a new infrastructure for participation, reducing the transaction costs of matching the wants and needs of people and giving them the opportunity to coordinate. We’re finding this enables us to allocate resources and solve distribution problems more rapidly and effectively.
  • By taking out the middlemen, people can begin to build trust with one other again. In the online space, this becomes transparent as reputation systems become more robust, revealing our interests, our social connections, and the trail of behaviors and actions across the Web.
  • The “Tragedy of the Commons” is not a given. People are capable of sharing resources if given the tools to self-organize, coordinate, and monitor each other.
  • New marketplaces are being built for people to build community, shape their personal identities, earn recognition, and participate in meaningful activity. They are finding new outlets for autonomy, control, freedom, and self-expression….
  • Aided by new communication infrastructures, we are learning to find the balance between the pursuit of one’s own self-interest and the greater good.