As we all begin to look forward to the Interactive section of South By South West in March, PSFK has identified five key trends that readers should be monitoring during the festival. One of these trends we have coined ‘Co-Sharing.’
Today, a growing number of people are trading items and favors between each other. Digital technology allows anyone to find an object or service they need, when they want it, where they want it. Rather than finding these products and services at retailers or from large corporations, these items are often found in the hands of other people—sometimes neighbors, sometimes like minds a great distance away.
To explore this idea further, we spoke with Daniel Hengeveld, the technical co-founder of NeighborGoods.
Everything and anything today is being lent and traded. The product-service economy is growing to a level where a significant number of people are maximizing the use of their possessions by lending them out to other people through disintermediated channels. What do you think is driving this trend of ‘co-sharing’?
The growth in ‘co-sharing’ is driven by obvious economic factors and and perhaps less-obvious social factors. Airbnb is an obvious example of success driven by economic factors. People love the idea that they can simply take a high-value item of theirs, like an apartment, and turn it into money.
There’s another aspect to the growth in this kind of behavior beyond the financial transaction, however. This is the social transaction, and services that focus on social transactions are a fairly new development…. but what do I mean by “social transaction?”
Think about the things in your home. What do you have that you would want to rent to another person, possibly someone you’ve never met? Maybe there are a few items, big-ticket things like cars — but would you rent a video game, a book, a kitchen tool?
To take an example from my own life, I keep a small stable of bicycles. I can only ride one at a time, and visitors to Los Angeles often want to ride around the neighborhood, or join in on a group bike ride with friends. I wouldn’t feel comfortable charging someone rent for my inexpertly-maintained 1980s bicycles, but I’m happy to lend them out in exchange for the social capital that I earn. In other words, I *want* people to ride them because I like being the guy that helps you out with your bike problem. It makes me feel good and in a practical sense means that someone in my extended social circle is more likely to lend me something I need in the future.
So, to circle back around and answer the question directly, I think that the underlying force behind the growth in “co-sharing” is this desire to exchange social capital, more so than the desire to make money.
Peer to Peer Exchange raises the overall value of the entire community of members by offering more choice, experience and opportunities that meet an ever changing set of expectations and needs. In your opinion, what are the next areas we could see big change in through peer-to-peer collaboration?
Not surprisingly, I think the social transactions I mentioned in the last question are the key here. Services that encourage that behavior will be the ones to spearhead the next wave of peer-to-peer collaboration. At NeighborGoods we’re big believers in this — as a matter of fact the next version of our service (currently in closed alpha) is heavily informed by both the concept of the social transaction and the belief that it can be used to encourage people to collaborate more effectively.
Another key point, and one that is underrepresented in peer-to-peer collaboration services (probably because it’s quite hard to get right!) is that there’s a lot of unrealized value in transactions between people that already know each other, or are separated by only one or two degrees. Earlier I asked you to think of the items in your home, and compare what you would rent versus what you would lend. Now think of everyone you’re friends with on Facebook. You might rent your apartment or car to just about anyone that seemed reliable, but what about your cousin, or your significant other’s friend from college? Does it seem right to make every sharing transaction about money, even if you’re socially connected in some way to your partner in the exchange?
At NeighborGoods, we’re convinced that the first services that really convince people that social capital has real value and get goods moving between people with loose social ties will be at the core of the next wave of growth in this area.
What talks and events should PSFK readers be looking out for in Austin to continue following this trend of ‘Co-Sharing’?
Here are some SXSWi panels and talks that I think will be interesting and relevant:
Panel consisting of extremely knowledgeable people in this space. Reading between the lines of this session will provide the answer to “why is co-sharing growing and what’s next?”
Collaborative consumption and alternative currency go hand-in-hand, as they are both alternatives to mainstream consumer culture.
The man behind “Jonathan’s Card” — the shared Starbucks gift card that was in the news in 2011. Again, I think alternative currency is a big deal.