Collaborative Consumption

Collaborative Consumption describes the rapid explosion in traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping reinvented through network technologies on a scale and in ways never possible before.

Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers wrote the definitive guide to collaborative consumption, called What’s Mine is Yours. In the book, they identify three types of collaborative consumption:

  1. Product service systems, where consumers pay for the benefit of using a product without owning it outright. Examples include car and bike sharing schemes, toy libraries and movie-on-demand services.
  2. Redistribution markets, which move used or pre-owned goods to where they are needed. The most famous example is eBay but this category also includes swap sites like Freecycle and neighbourhood marketplaces like the Garage Sale Trail.
  3. Collaborative lifestyles, which refers to arrangements where people with similar interests band together to share and exchange less tangible assets such as time, space, skills and money. Examples include peer-to-peer travel services, crowdfunding sites and errand networks.

Clearly, the initiatives that fit under these categories are diverse. The Collaborative Consumption Hub claims to have collected over a thousand examples. Nevertheless, Botsman and Rogers argue that there are four principles that they have in common.

  1. First, collaborative consumption initiatives need critical mass, or ‘the existence of enough momentum in a system to make it become self-sustaining’. Collaboration only works when there are enough people present and connected to sustain it.
  2. Second, collaborative consumption initiatives require the existence of idle capacity that can be redistributed.
  3. Third, these initiatives rest on ‘belief in the commons’. The idea here is that ‘by providing value to the community, we enable our own social value to expand in return’.
  4. Finally, collaborative consumption rests on ‘trust between strangers’, who are brought together through social networking technologies.

The Collaborative Consumption Hub is a wonderful resource for learning more about collaborative consumption. It’s packed with videos, infographics and links to hundreds of collaborative consumption initiatives.