Last night, cos I can occasionally be cultural and organised enough to get tickets, I went to a talk at the RSA.
It was entitled “The Rise of Collaborative Consumption”, and given by a totally inspiring speaker (author, social innovator) called Rachel Botsman. There’s a book that (I imagine) goes into more detail; but this is the take from my rather hastily scrawled notes.
There’s a fundamental shift going on in society.
It’s being enabled by vast technical advances and the digital revolution, and triggered by the post recession shock and how our value system is changing.
The shift is from consumption to contribution (TimeBank); from owning things to sharing (Streetcar); from product to purpose or experience (Boris’ Bikes); from disconnection to connection –
You can tell why I liked it so much.
I am a bit of an evangelist when it comes to the power of the web to level the playing field and open up communications; and I love the fact that the emphasis, here, is on community and inclusion, rather than on objects or the division that objects seems to be able to create. I am rather taken by the idea of a society where I can write an article in exchange for my next door neighbour sorting my plumbing; or where I can swap flats with someone in the South of France for a couple of weeks. I’ve also had a pretty major value overhaul recently, and connections and experiences are certainly the most valuable things in my life.
On the way home, the pitfalls in the argument begun to emerge. It’s in lots of peoples interest that we own things. The internet is not quite as accessible as it needs to be in order for this theory to really work. Not everyone wants to share. We are, I think, a little worried about things at the moment; and fear can provoke change – or it can lead us to shore up the defences and retreat.
I hope that this does not happen.
I hope that the little pockets of collaboration gain momentum and spread. That the barriers – both emotional (fear) and practical (access) – are addressed and that the trend happens on and offline. That the generosity and openness that has made me reconsider how people interact – because we are amazingly giving and far stronger when we work together – and given me a new model for this interaction has the same effect on others.
That we trust – and learn from it when it works, and don’t give up if it doesn’t.
That we are brave enough to take a leap of faith, even if we have to do it slowly and person by person.