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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Possible futures for the UK collaborative economy

Every day, articles flood into my newsfeed propounding the imminent potential of the collaborative, or sharing, economy. While we have undoubtedly seen some important battles fought and gains made in recent years, I think that many people are still unsure where this emergent trend is headed. Is the collaborative economy looking to transform economic systems, resource consumption, or social equality – if so, in what ways?

We often hear that the collaborative economy is a ‘broad church’ of individuals and organisations. Participants enter with their own set of goals and aspirations. On the whole, these aren't always the same – and may even be contradictory. For some, the collaborative economy is simply a good business opportunity. For others, it may be an unparalleled opportunity to transform consumption habits, resource efficiency, or our economy system. Different priorities may be easier to reconcile when collectively promoting the collaborative economy, but that doesn’t mean everyone is working towards the same thing.

So where is the collaborative economy headed? This question has been somewhat lost amidst recent excitement and debate, yet it is absolutely crucial to consider – particularly as governments and policymakers get more involved. How they choose, promote and regulate the collaborative economy will significantly influence its future. Likewise, thinking about the future collaborative economy can help policymakers and regulators identify effective responses now.

With this in mind, Nesta has produced six possible futures for the UK collaborative economy in 2025. By no means exhaustive or exclusive, each scenario highlights some of the key trends currently driving the collaborative economy. Certain scenarios will seem promising, while others may feel alarming (or even bizarre). Whatever your reaction, we hope they prompt some reflection and debate on the future of the collaborative economy – and how we can influence it.

To kick off the discussion, we'll be presenting the scenarios at Nesta’s major policy event, Future Shock on 14 November. We have also asked Tooley Street Research to consider the scenarios and produce short responses, which are available on each scenario’s webpage. Going forward, we’re particularly keen to hear your reactions and feedback. Please have a look at the scenarios and let us know what you think.


Kathleen Stokes

Kathleen Stokes

Kathleen Stokes

Senior Researcher, Social Innovation

Kathleen was a Senior Researcher leading on Nesta’s policy and research work in digital education and the collaborative economy. At Nesta, Kathleen researched and written various publi…

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