Reaching the full potential for sharing
I believe we have not yet understood the potential for sharing, so I'm really pleased to be able to contribute to this thread and help hold some of the collaborative consumption strings together. It is a showcase and stimulator for what's happening and, just as importantly, a signpost for where we could go from here.
I instigated something called Camden Shares in October 2009. It is a loose configuration of organisations, groups, societies and individuals. They trade resources using time as a currency. We have big organisations (UCL, Argent, LB Camden, Warner Bros), medium sizers (community centres, local businesses like Saddlers Wells) and some little ones, like the Camden Historical Society and a trusted trader scheme. There are 124 organisations (growing each week) and too many people to count. Traders exchange stuff - services, mini-buses, labour, etc.
We keep a Camden Shares blog, which has captured the stories and some of the exchanges. A trading platform will arrive this autumn, but like all grass roots developments, we thought the people, the users, and the demand should grow before we developed the product - otherwise it's inefficient and you waste money.
The service works as a time bank. We think time banks work in three ways: as a tool for communities to organise themselves and community activity; as an equitable way to co-produce services of one sort or another; and between organisations to share resources, some of which might be under-utilised.
Value is an odd concept. One man's...is another man's...and in time banking we have a great way for individuals to express what's valuable to them. An hour for an hour, 1 + 1! It's a powerful tool for change.
What we have learned from Camden Shares is that when these methods of time banking come together in a location, they can be incredibly effective at building thriving, fair, connected but unbounded, very powerful social marketplaces. We have experienced a groundswell for bottom-up entrepreneurial solutions which organically develop rather than social entrepreneur-down theories and projects. It's efficient and we save money.
Camden Shares is a little more adventurous perhaps because it sprang from a project in King’s Cross that works with some of London's most marginalised peopled, who are labelled as 'problems'. This group includes homeless people, drug and alcohol dependent individuals, failed asylum seekers, refugees and people with mental health problems. We could have carried on trying to 'treat' the problems, but we decided to work with people to solve them. The people we work with may have many labels, but they lack one crucial and vital advantage needed in order to really change: equal access to resource - good old fashioned capital.
We have marginalised people and isolated them from any chance of opportunity. Worse than that, we have wrapped them in 'program' and 'course' but systematically failed to ensure that the real investment is directed where it should be - at the core of the problem rather than the tip. People really can change if you trust them.
We decided to try and turn our service inside-out. Rather than 'that' building where 'those' people go, we have tried to put ourselves at the heart of a trading network. As traders we have an equal status. As traders that earn the time to trade through participation, we have equality in the network that we haven't had before. As traders who want to earn the time to trade, we have become a useful resource to our neighbourhood. Public services could become the hub of a whole range of open and collaborative relationships by sharing what they have.
We think this way of co-producing has the potential to enlist the non-cash economy in a way that allows contributors in both the cash market and non-cash market to claim their due. We believe this is the most effective way to generate social capital.
We want to push collaborative consumption beyond exchanges between people. We think we should be enlisting the customers of all public services as co-producers and, by doing so, investing in their human capacity to generate social wealth. In this way, we can unblock the cul-de-sac of public spending and ensure value from spending reaches the places it is needed most.