EU Regions and cities talk about sharing economy

EU Regions and cities talk about sharing economy

220px-Comité_de_las_regionesOn the 29th September at the 5th meeting of the Commission for Economic Policy, the CoR will discuss its draft opinion on “The local and regional dimension of sharing economy”. As anticipated in July this opinion has been drafted by LabGov Director, Professor Christian Iaione, after a long consultation with many experts worldwide.

The document contains a series of policy recommendations pertaining the nature and the role of the Sharing Economy (SE) in the broader European framework. It builds on Professor Iaione theory of Poolism and pooling economy. In addtition, while defining the dynamic nature and the core features of SE, the document tries to design essential principles for an EU initiative on the SE.

SE is all about changing paradigm, it is a megatrend. One of its main highlights is about transforming the standard economic agent, in a way for which also consumers become able to monetize or exploit idle assets. What is novel is the capacity of people to participate in the SE as users, capitalizing their collective capability. In other words, people are not anymore economic actors and economy is not only a unilateral top-down process: people are users, co-workers, designers, makers, creators, artisan and much more. And the market place is a global network.

Thus, the realm of SE comprises and adopts a platform whereby the traditional economic model is not anymore functioning as the main driver. More likely, SE encompasses sharing, trading, or renting assets instead of buying them, and it comes with the right technology allowing demand and supply to interact.

Services like Car2Go, AirBnb, Bla Bla Car, Roomz, Stayz, Uber, and MamaBake, are just some of the most successful experiences of collaborative consumption. They have won a sizable market share not because they are offering a product, but because they offer a connection. However, the narrative of SE is far from being normalized in institutional behaviour. In fact, while there is much agreement on the question of paradigm change, what is less clear is about the direction that is taking this shift. In other words, is all the sharing economy about similar use or same access and functioning? Or otherwise there is not yet a commonly shared culture of SE?

Coming to think about it, Bertrand Russell famously once said: “Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize until you have tried to make it precise”. Exactly, this is what happens when trying to put the concept of sharing economy in the spotlight. SE seems to emerge in various configurations, all alternatives to capital-intensive forms of market economy, but yet with different social, legal and business patterns.Not surprisingly then, it is very difficult to think about regulating SE at EU level, at least at current development stage.

Someone said that “sharing economy uses technology to reshape the world through transforming the need to own. It’s a world in which our collective capability meets our collective needs, where we collaborate to enhance each other’s lives, protect our planet and create wealth from which everybody benefits”. (Benita Matofska, Chief Sharer, Compare and Share and global expert on the sharing economy)

But again, this is a good attempt to capture a new idea never expressed before and nothing more. On the opposite, the regulatory nature of EU requires clear standards and concepts if we want [or we need] to build a tailored policy framework for regulating sharing economy.

Certainly the complexity of the task is evident, but at the same time economic trends are just incumbent and running wild. Sometimes they disrupt established business models and companies offering traditional services are threatened. At the same time, governments cannot hold back the tide of market forces and consumers’ preferences, failing to respond with timely and appropriate regulations. So, how can EU correctly think about sharing economy?

First of all, it is necessary to understand the many types and steps of sharing economy, as eventually they would require different regulatory approaches. Secondly, what have to be pointed out are the effects of the SE on the economic, environmental and social landscapes. In fact, SE practices are not necessarily optimal in terms of sound environmental protection, social cohesion, or even equality and social justice; for instance, many business initiatives might create significant imbalances in economic power and can be unsustainable as related to environmental impacts.

Also, to prevent inappropriate policy contexts and unfair treatments, it is necessary to develop a comprehensive approach to SE in a way for which citizens, companies and institutions would feel comfortable with with the regulatory framework. Discrepancy in power should not result.

Lastly, EU is called to address SE as a political and social phenomenon, in a way to make it mainstream in the everyday life and to make the institutional framework compliant to a bottom-up, adaptive, experimental and collaborative approach.

If all the previous conditions are met, SE might really function as a paradigm changer, in the sense of giving rise to a new positive economic identity. All things considered, LabGov has a vivid interest in sharing economy. For this reason, the reccomendations and the results that are due to be published after the debating, will turn to be extremely fruitful for the forthcoming conference on “The City as a Commons: Reconceiving Urban Space, Commons Goods And City Governance”, organized in collaboration with the Fordham University of New York and the ICEDD of the LUISS University of Rome.

The novel future is about institutions and regulations that make people live together; we need to create a culture of collaboration and to associate initiatives, efforts and assets in a way that is sustainable for the needs and interests of the whole population.
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Abstract

Il dibattito sull’economia collaborativa assume una connotazione ancora più importante alla luce dei recenti sviluppi industriali e commerciali che la sharing economy (SE) comporta. Esempi come Uber, AirBnb o Bla Bla car, hanno mostrato come il paradigma di sviluppo economico sia sostanzialmente mutato.

Tuttavia, il nuovo profilo che è venuto a delinearsi racchiude in sé un cambiamento ancora più profondo, relativo al ruolo ed alla funzione che ogni cittadino assume. Secondo il paradigma della SE, la figura standard del consumatore ha lasciato rapidamente spazio a quella di utilizzatore, artista, creatore e molto altro. Non si parla più dunque di economia di consumo, ma semmai della condivisione.

Evidentemente però, una definizione univoca e condivisa circa le caratteristiche, i valori e gli obiettivi che l’economia collaborativa deve perseguire non esiste. Di conseguenza, aprire un dibattito istituzionale per chiarire le dinamiche e i punti chiave della SE a livello nazionale ed europeo appare quanto mai necessario.

Per questo motivo, il prossimo 29 Settembre, il CoR discuterà in sede istituzionale la sua “draft opinion sulla dimensione locale e regionale della sharing economy”.

L’occasione è importante per discutere tutta una serie di raccomandazioni riguardo la natura e il ruolo dell’economia collaborativa. L’idea principale è quella di chiarire la necessità di avere un modello economico che non crei macro-squilibri e che sia invece sostenibile per gli interessi e le esigenze di ogni singolo cittadino.