10 ideas for change: The Sharing Economy

How can sharing boost local economies, build community and improve the resilience of neighbourhoods? Here’s ten sharing projects that are creating change in local areas:

  • Reduce food waste: There are a number of schemes focused on collecting food that would otherwise go to waste and redistributing it among those in need. Fareshare feeds more than 43,000 people across the UK every day and in Germany and France, Disco Soup combines food sharing with music. Discarded vegetables from local markets and other suppliers are cooked up into a soup and shared with homeless people in a town centre setting with a disco backdrop.
  • Lilac housing community in Leeds
    Lilac housing community in Leeds
  • Create affordable housing: Co-housing is gaining traction as the crisis in housing shows no sign of abating. One of the most recent developments is Lilac Leeds, a community of 20 strawbale homes in west Leeds. In co-housing schemes members live in their own homes but sharing and community are built into the development, with features such as a common house where members can come together to share food, and shared laundry and gardens.
  • Boost the local food growing community: Apples for Eggs is a produce swapping community. It hosts community food swap events across the country to which local producers turn up to exchange their food with items made or grown by others. No money changes hands, the currency is in the produce, and the scheme boosts community as well as local food supplies.
  • Hand empty spaces to the community: What happened when a 14,000 square food warehouse in San Francisco was leased to the local community for one dollar? Or when a former tobacco factory in Madrid earmarked for development was handed over to the community in the meantime? There’s hundreds of projects using empty shops and buildings for creative change but these two show what can be achieved when the idea is taken to scale.
  • Offer collaborative co-working spaces: Entrepreneurs and people who have been displaced by collapsing local industries in southern Italy are being inspired to create new livelihoods at Casa Netural, a co-working project in the rural Basilicata region that offers a space for local people to come together and re-imagine the future of their local area. In urban areas the worldwide network of Hubs is doing something similar.

    CasaNetural
    Casa Netural co-working and living space in Matera in Southern Italy
  • Set up local libraries for tools and toys: B & Q’s Street Club helps local communities to share tools with their neighbours. But tool libraries – both formal and informal – have been around for many years, particularly in the United States, where some veteran tool librarians have created a guide to setting them up.
  • Support older people through local skill sharing: The Phinney Neighbourhood Association runs a range of sharing events and programmes to help strengthen its local community, including a network of helpers who volunteer to assist older members with small tasks in their homes. Participle’s Circle project relies on the skills of a local social network to support older people in their community.
  • Put on a crowdshare carnival: A number of crowdsharing events have taken place in Brighton including The Sharing Games which brought the local community together to swap clothes, books, toys and food through an day of fun and entertainment including Toy Hacking and recycled Robot Relays. Part carnival, part flash mob, crowdshare demonstrates ‘shareability’ in action.
  • Members of Southwark Circle in London
    Members of Southwark Circle in London
  • Create shareable transport systems: As austerity begins to impact on public transport infrastructure in many towns and cities, the possibilities of creating ground-up transport systems are gaining ground. Bike co-ops, car and ride shares are becoming common but some are thinking about how this could go even further with buses and even train systems run by and for the public.
  • Build a sharing culture: A mountain town in North Carolina offers a model for an entire community built around sharing. From ‘potluck’ shared dinners and a network of community gardens, to a longstanding Local Exchange Trading System and a new ‘Really Really Free Market’ to which people can bring their unwanted goods to exchange, the town combines old-fashioned sharing with new technology-driven exchanges.

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Clare Goff

Clare Goff

Clare Goff is editor of New Start magazine

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