Sharing and Sharing Alike

A couple of months ago I read a book called What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rodgers. I loved the book. It was a quick read, and it changed my outlook on many aspects of my daily life here in the developed world. It introduced me to a bunch of sharing initiatives that I now make regular use of, and it even gave me a few ideas for as-yet untapped aspects of what some people call our “sharing economy”.

I got that phrase from an excerpt of a conversation with Yale law professor Yochai Benkler that I came across today. It seems the subject matter he is focusing on is pretty similar to what I saw in Botsman and Rodgers’s book: many of us consumers are starting to get our goods and services from each other rather than from traditional market resources.

I have even observed the phenomenon of an attempt to capture this different kind of market share here in my hometown of Cincinnati, a well-established branding hub because of P&G. Here is a local brand consultancy that is using collaborative-thinking to come up with solutions for companies that want to sell their products traditionally but brand them collaboratively: Crush Republic. A little meta, don’t you think?

So, my question: is this a developed-world-only phenomenon? There are so many things that people in the communities I run in outside of my Nuru community talk about that DO seem to be developed-world-specific concerns that I am always on the lookout for them (how is my 401K doing?, should I accept this new job that entails a pay cut?, should I send my kid to the $20,000USD-a-year private school?, should I move to the suburbs, should my town buy a streetcar…etc.). This wonderful trend of sharing and sharing economies, though, I hope, is not developed-world specific.

Much about the Nuru model is about sharing. It is about trusting one’s neighbors and the members of one’s community to do the right things so that the whole community can benefit from a coordinated Nuru intervention. Just read about our Community Economic Development program. It is savings-led and group-based. So is our Agriculture program. I’ll let you look at whatever other portions of our model you feel like perusing on our website, but trust that we believe in a philosophy of coordinating efforts, teaming up, developing groups, and incentivizing collaboration.

The difference between what people are talking and writing about here in the developed world related to sharing economies and what is happening in Kuria, Kenya is this: markets for things like consumer products and food are over-flooded in the developed world, and those markets are in a drought in places like Kuria. People have way too much crap in the U.S., and they have figured out that a good way to get rid of it is by offering it to their neighbors, and their neighbors have discovered that an environmentally and socially responsible place to acquire goods is from one’s neighbor. In Kuria, the community members are working now to get products like food and important healthcare products into their markets in the first place.

I hope that the developed and the developing world are both headed to the same place: waste-free and harmonious consumer markets throughout the world. There is much work to do on both ends of the development spectrum, though, in order to make that happen.

About Gabrielle Blocher

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