In the last few years, a couple of multi-billion dollar companies — initially marketed as part of a new sharing economy — devoured people’s attention. After these giants discredited the concept, many thought the ideas behind it were too naive and unrealistic to begin with. The forces of capitalism, neoliberalism and our human nature are too strong to try to change them, some believed.
Reality is a bit more complex.
To prove that the sharing movement is alive and thriving, Shareable has been working on a very ambitious project: a collection of the most exciting and innovative cases of sharing and urban commons underway around the world. With 137 case studies drawn from 80 cities in 35 countries focusing on housing, mobility, food, work, energy, land, waste, water, technology, finance and governance, the Sharing Cities movement shows that local solutions really can tackle global problems.
Tom Llewellyn, coordinator of the Sharing Cities Network, spoke to us about how these initiatives are paving the way to a better future.
Fernanda Marin: Let’s start with the basics. How do you define a sharing city? Is there a framework or methodology?
Tom Llewellyn: We set forth a series of 10 principles, rather than a specific framework or definition of what makes a sharing city. We feel that the idea of the sharing city is aspirational, meaning it is a process more than a finish line. In that sense, while a number of cities have declared themselves to be sharing cities, there isn’t a single one that is all the way there yet.
Solidarity would be the first principle we feel a sharing city should work to meet. The idea is for people within the city to work together for the common good rather than competing for scarce resources. The sharing city is of, by and for all people, no matter their race, class, gender, sexual orientation or ability. At a core, these cities are primarily civic, meaning residents would be focused on taking care of each other as well as partner cities, creating a cross-city solidarity.
Marin: In your experience, is activating the urban commons more successful when done by grassroots organizations or by local governments?
Llewellyn: It takes both. The main idea of the commons, in general, is that for them to be successful it takes a community behind it — to manage that resource — and a certain amount of support from the government to make sure that resources can be managed in a sustainable fashion.
There is also a need to partner with the market forces. There are some great examples of that cooperation, one coming from Portland, Oregon called the City Repair Project. The community there wanted to rethink how to use the commonly held properties. They started by painting murals in the middle of intersections. It was done initially after a couple of children were run over in a neighborhood, so residents came together to make sure it never happened again. They had a block party and painted the intersection with a mural as a memorial.
Initially, the city pushed back and destroyed it. This caused a huge outrage in the city by the residents, not only those involved in the project. The government ended up legitimizing the policy and allowing residents to paint their streets. Over time, some people involved in this project moved into the government, and are now able to help maintain the practice. (…)
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