Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rentalship is the new Ownership

I think live|work coined it a little more elegantly 8 years ago with, "It's not what you own. It's what you use." That said, here's a quick article from Wired about the rise of collaborative marketplaces and a little bit about the implications. Rachel Botsman was quoted with a nice bit,"“We are relearning how to create value out of shared and open resources in ways that balance personal self-interest with the good of the larger community,” she says. “For the first time in history, the age of networks and mobile devices has created the efficiency and social glue to create innovative solutions, enabling the sharing and exchange of assets."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Informal Economies in Africa: Creating products, services and systems that reinforce convivial relationships among people

Just paraphrasing a conversation between John Thackera and Mugendi M’Rithaa that showed up on the Thackera's Doors of Perception (first published in the Design Observer). Below is a quick capture of some ideas and language around the under-pinnings of "alternative" economies, specifically in Africa.

As socially-based alternatives economies are becoming more and more pervasive, there may be some lessons to learn from a continent that "may be cash poor but communally rich", attributing its wealth to "the universal value of participative, cohesive and inter-connected communities," says M'Rithaa. He continues, "A sense of communal solidarity is still strongly embedded in our collective consciousness and social fabric. For many close-knit communities (especially in rural and peri-urban settings) consumerism has yet to take its hold on the popular psyche – people readily share what they have, and borrow what they don’t." What I take this to imply is that, collectively speaking, Africa is still a culture of smaller, closer knit relationships where it is understood, implicitly or explicitly, that people are reliant upon each other to make their worlds move smoothly. Even if the circles are growing every day, there hasn't yet been a tipping point that moves the culture from a culture of "WE" to a culture of "ME." Subsequently, ownership is less a goal than a component of a larger system of sharing or exchanging.

This, M'Ritha says, is what makes Africa worth noting. Built upon a culture of collective self-reliance, and mutual assistance,the informal economy (barter, trade, swap, share....) is what keeps Africa moving. M'Ritha says that the sense of solidarity is pervasive. "It's expressed in various types of elective creative communities; these typically deal with shared needs such as running communal crèches and car pooling. These groups are known as chamas in Kenya, and differ significantly from traditional forms of groupings where membership was based on common kinship." At the heart of these economies is trust.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What's Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption

Came across an article in the Boston Globe profiling the first National Swap Day Event which was held in Boston during the early part of January.

Rachel Botsman, coauthor of the recent book “What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption," weighed in on the growing popularity of swapping and "attributes the swelling of swapping to a perfect alignment of social and economic attitudes. The recession forced budget-conscious consumers to barter rather than buy. Sophisticated technology made it easy to organize quickly online. Such sites addressed people’s interest in recycling their belongings. And despite the apparent rancor with which they shop, swappers say they enjoy the sense of community."

“The result is a big shift away from the 20th century defined by hyper consumption, essentially buying more stuff and a culture of me, myself, and I towards the 21st-century era of collaborative consumption,’’ Botsman said. “In the past, it was not worth the hassle to swap stuff. Network technologies now create an infinite marketplace to match millions of haves with millions of wants, whatever they may be, from a small device in our hands.’’

I'm curious to see what she has to say about people's interest in the the creation process. How much or how willing are people to participate in the production of exchange in addition to filling the role as end consumer. As well, with this shift towards collaboration over sole ownership, is she seeing any new patterns or change in behavior as it relates to what and how much people consume.

Also mentioned in the profile is a brief nod to GrowNYC, an environmental nonprofit created by the New York City mayor’s office. Recognizing the trend towards re-use, they've recently added and organized 13 “Stop ‘N Swap’’ events (attracting more than 4,000 people) to their Office of Recycling Outreach and Education.