In November last year, we announced ShareLab, a pilot intervention to support the growth of a more socially-driven sharing - or collaborative - economy.
The roots of ShareLab go back a long way, but crystallised in 2014 when the UK Government launched its independent review into the sharing economy.
Nesta’s response focused heavily on how the sharing economy could be supported to deliver more inclusive economic growth. We also championed the need to carve out space and finance to experiment with different models for sharing economy platforms that could deliver social impact and address social challenges in new ways, drawing on the clear potential of technology to co-ordinate people’s time and resources in new ways.
We were inspired by GoodSam, a collaborative platform (incubated through Nesta’s Innovation Lab) that alerts nearby first-aid responders when the emergency services are called - thereby saving lives. Yet, scouting around, we didn’t see too many other examples. So we launched the ShareLab Fund; a call out to any organisation with an idea - or an existing service - that was able to show how the collaborative economy could be used to deliver better public services, and how technology could be used to open up under-used resources, time and talents.
We got a great response. Two hundred and forty-five organisations applied to the fund and, after going through the tough task of reviewing those organisations, we chose eight ideas - and it’s an exciting cohort.
There were a wide range of applications to ShareLab Fund that focused on alternative ways of connecting carers to people who are in need of care.
We expect this to be an area of considerable activity over the coming years, with obvious challenges and opportunities for disrupting the existing agency model of care provision. ShareLab will be working with TrustOnTap, a platform that connects self-employed care workers with people in Oxfordshire, to further test and expand its provision.
What would an AirBnB for community spaces look like? ShareLab will be working with ShareSomewhere to develop its model that makes its easy for voluntary and community groups to hire out low cost and under-used spaces on a one-off basis; currently running pilots in Manchester and Cheshire.
In another opportunity to make use of under-used assets, Social Value Exchange will leverage the Social Value Act to match local community groups with excess commercial resources - like expertise, office space or IT equipment.
The ShareLab pilot has shown that there is no shortage of great ideas out there; no shortage of appetite to think creatively about alternative models
Transport has been an area where the commercial collaborative economy has seen a wave of disruption; with platforms like Uber, Lyft and many others entering the market. This has created many challenges; not least the employment status of people who provide car rides to paying customers. But there are alternative models that are worth testing.
Working with the New Economics Foundation, ShareLab will learn from the development and testing of a taxi app, cooperatively owned by drivers themselves. It will run pilots in Bradford and Leeds, providing transport services for the local community and retaining value in the local economy.
LiftShare, another ShareLab cohort member, will be testing how a variety of Community Transport services in the Norwich area can collaborate; working together to fill empty car seats, serve more routes and, in doing so, help make more journeys available; reducing social isolation felt by vulnerable people.
ShareLab will also support Hearts Milk Bank to develop a platform for their existing service, which will simplify and expand the donation of safe, screened breast milk to babies in need in UK hospitals; Chatterbox, an online language learning service which employs refugees to teach their native languages, and Beam, a platform that crowdfunds high quality employment training for homeless people.
To date, the ShareLab pilot has shown that there is no shortage of great ideas out there; no shortage of appetite to think creatively about alternative models of provision for things like community transport and care.
And whether through niche services like milk banks or broad opportunities like on-demand access to community spaces, we want to show that collaborative platforms are as useful and as important as any commercial platform we’ve seen to date.
ShareLab is being led by Alice Casey at Nesta, and we’ll be offering regular updates on progress, and announcing new activities throughout 2017. Follow updates here.