The Collaborative Economy is Here and It’s Changing Everything

The collaborative (or sharing) economy has exploded into a multi-billion dollar marketplace. It’s come on quickly and persuasively, and it’s here to stay, says Rachel Botsman, social innovator and global authority on collaborative consumption. We are hopping into strangers’ vehicles (Lyft, Sidecar, Uber), welcoming them into our extra bedrooms (Airbnb), dropping our dogs off at their houses (DogVacay, Rover), and eating food in their dining rooms (Feastly). We are entrusting complete strangers with our most valuable possessions, our personal experiences – and our lives. The currency of this radically and rapidly changing world of business and society is trust.

Less than five years ago, most of us couldn’t have imagined the likes of Uber or Airbnb and others. But Botsman was already predicting how they and other sharing-based businesses like them would change our world. The concept of collaborative consumption – coined by Botsman in her seminal book, “What’s Mine Is Yours” (HarperBusiness, 2010) and recognized by TIME as one of the 10 Ideas That Will Change the World – is not just an economic breakthrough. It’s a cultural one. We’ve entered a new era of Internet- and technology-enabled intimacy powered by reputation, Botsman explains. “Peer-to-peer sharing involves the re-emergence of community. [It] works because people can trust each other.”

What Botsman calls reputation capital – how we treat people and how we behave – will ultimately drive our world, she believes. While we’ve reached the “fight stage,” where everything from regulatory and legal battles to competition between start-ups are markers of the movement’s successful evolution, there’s still work to be done to stimulate deeper change to consumer behaviors and business systems.

“Scale is critical,” cautions Botsman, the founder of Collaborative Lab, the leading source of expertise for companies that want to embrace the collaborative economy. “We have to be careful not to dilute the humanness and empowerment that lies at the core of collaborative consumption.”

No industry should ignore this powerful economic and sociological shift in priorities, and in the way we all live, think, trust and aspire for a better world. If you don’t believe it now, Botsman’s monthly Australia Financial Review column and other influential writings, including a forthcoming Harvard Business Review article (September issue), will convince you.

An unequaled authority on collaborative or sharing economics, Botsman continues to be highly sought by entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business school professors and business leaders alike for her expertise and forward-focused insights. Named by Monocle as one of the top 20 speakers in the world to have at your conference, Botsman is based in Australia, but is available for engagements around the world. She will be in the U.S. this fall (October-November). She has presented at high profile events, including The Clinton Global Initiative and TED, as well as engaged audiences at Hewlett Packard, Google and 10 Downing Street.

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