I went to the ecobuild conference at the ExCeL a couple of days ago. Possibly an odd place for a social media manager to end up (although I have to say it was seriously impressive), but the opportunity of going to see Rachel Botsman speaking about Collaborative Consumption wasn’t one that I was going to let slip.
I won’t go into huge amounts of detail about exactly what Collaborative Consumption is; either you’ve already heard about it, or you’ve clicked on the previous link and now you’re practically an expert. What I will say is that Rachel’s talk was really inspiring, and it suddenly struck me that what she was talking about was the kind of stuff my parents were doing on a very local (and at times laboured) way, when I was growing up in the ‘70s; bartering, sharing skills, space, time and ‘stuff’. The difference now, is obviously how the technology that has enabled social networking and the like, has made all of this so much easier, accessible and immediate. In some ways, it feels a little like we’re going back to the future; just not in the The DeLorean time machine.
Companies such as AirBnB, Park At My House, Task Rabbit, Landshare (a personal favourite), The Good Gym are all great examples of collaborative consumption in action, but this isn’t just about the ease of ‘you’ve got something I need that you want to share/give away/sell’ – although with the average AirBnB host making a whopping $21,000 per year, it’s an opportunity for people to make a living that perhaps they previously couldn’t have through the more traditional routes.
The great bit; the bit that really makes me smile, is that so much of this sharing and connecting is manifesting itself into community. I mean, real, proper, local, off-line, real world community. People that wouldn’t ordinarily know their neighbours well enough to even nod to them in the street are now becoming properly connected, and surely that can only be a good thing, right?
As Rachel so cleverly put it, “Stop buying ‘stuff’ so that you can keep up with the Joneses. Instead, get to know the Joneses”. She believes that we’re at the start of a collaborative revolution that could be bigger than the industrial revolution. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s a really interesting thought. I guess a tell-tale sign is the noise that’s being made around peer-to-peer financing (the likes of Zopa), and in particular the little reported fact that Andy Haldane, head of policy at the Bank of England said this, this week.
Looks like interesting times ahead.