Rachel Botsman Makes the Case for Collaborative Consumption

Moving from a culture of “me” to a culture of “we”.

Rachel Botsman, a researcher and social innovator, is hooked on the idea of what she calls “collaborative consumption” – a phenomenon that is gaining force in the 21st century.  She recently gave a TED talk about the concept (see clip above) and said that what is essentially happening is that “technology is enabling trust between strangers.  We now live in a global village, where we can mimic the ties that used to happen face to face but on a scale and in ways that have never been possible before.  So what’s actually happening is that social networks and real-time technologies are taking us back – we’re bartering, sharing, swapping, trading – but they’re being reinvented into dynamic and appealing forms.”

Collaborative consumption has started to emerge in the Middle East over recent years, with the appearance of online services such as carpooling in Cairo, or car sharing in Tel Aviv.

The internet is removing the need for the “middle man” and creating a peer-to-peer revolution where online platforms create the ability to collaborate easily and seamlessly.  This enables sharing to happen at “phenomenal rates”.

According to Botsman, collaborative consumption is happening because of four key reasons:

  • A renewed belief in the importance of community
  • A torrent of peer-to-peer social networks and real-time technologies
  • Pressing unresolved environmental concerns
  • A global recession that has fundamentally shocked consumer behaviors

As a result of collaborative consumption, what Botsman and her collaborators refer to as “redistribution markets” are now emerging.  Instead of simply throwing used items out, as they were before, items are now being redistributed from where they are no longer needed to where they are.  “Redistribution” is the 5th “R” after Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Repair, since it also prolongs the lifecycle of a product (thereby reducing waste).

She also points to the growth in “product service systems”, where you pay for the benefit of using a product without actually owning it.  One widespread example of this system is a car sharing service, such as Car2Go in Tel Aviv, which allows multiple members of the service to use the cars frequently as needed without actually owning the car.

“These systems are coming together allowing people to share resources without sacrificing their lifestyles or their cherished personal freedoms.  I’m not asking people to share nicely in the sandpit,” Botsman said.

“I believe we’re actually in a period where we’re waking up from this humongous hangover of emptiness and waste, and we’re taking a leap to create a more sustainable system built to serve our innate needs for community and individual identity.  I believe it will be referred to as a revolution…. I’m on a mission to making sharing cool.”

: TED Talks

Read more about collaborative consumption already happening in the Middle East::
Get a Ride and Reduce Carbon Emissions with Egypt Carpoolers
Car2Go Brings Car Sharing to Tel Aviv
Reuse It or Lose It: Logging On to Online Re(use)sources

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