I was seduced by a lady in the bar of a luxury London hotel this week, but this is not that kind of blog and she wasn’t that kind of lady. Benita Matofska wants to help us change the way we live by enabling us to “have the life we want at a price we can afford.” That’s a concept I find very seductive.
Benita’s business card says she’s the chief sharer at The People Who Share, a start up business that’s deploying the power of the Internet to connect people so we can share the things we’re not using or under-utilising. An active ‘sharing economy’ clearly promises environmental benefits. If there was ever a time to introduce such an initiative, that time is surely today’s climate of austerity.
The practicality makes sense. Last week, I had to move two tons of stones from the front of my property to the back. Had I not known that the bloke next door had an unemployed wheelbarrow sitting in his garage, I would have had to pay a visit to the local builders yard. That would have left my bank account £50 lighter and both of us with unemployed wheelbarrows in our garages.
Car sharing or holiday house swaps are obvious examples but when you get to think about it, there are lot of opportunities. Most families on your street have a lawn mover that gets used a few times every year – why? I also predict a brisk trade in golf clubs, musical instruments and exercise equipment that had more enthusiasm shown them on the day of purchase than at any time afterwards.
One of my favourite ideas from Benita is ‘shwopping’, an idea I believe will appeal more to ladies than to men. Rather than buy a new outfit for a special occasion that will then take up space at the back of your wardrobe, simply borrow something from the back of someone else’s wardrobe who’s the same size as you.
We’ve become much more comfortable with the concept of ‘sharing’ since signing up for Facebook and Twitter accounts. Today, people happy and regularly share photos, ideas and all kinds of updates. Some even share details of what they had for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Business like BT, though its FON initiative, enable people to share their broadband connections when they are otherwise idle with others who sign up to do the same thing.
Benita’s plan is to help you to find people that have what you need going spare using Internet search technology. She believes it could become a global business, but I see it as a more hyperlocal initiative. Maybe there’s a way we could both be right. eBay is certainly a model worth looking at.
In any event, the sharing economy clearly requires rules to be established and applied. It can’t be asymmetrical (both a borrower and a lender be!) and someone would need to do a credit and character check before you’d be prepared to hand over the keys to your holiday cottage to someone who asks you to believe he’s Honest Bill from Herne Bay. I suspect you’d also like to know that Kimberly from Chatham is on familiar terms with a good dry cleaner before lending her your latest Stella McCartney for the evening.
At the risk of sounding like a card carrying Greenpeacer (I’m not), I do think we’ve completely lost the plot on consumption. The world can’t sustain it and rampant consumerism is making us increasingly boring dinner guests.
But the biggest benefit is that a sharing economy might just get people speaking to people they don’t know again, like we did in ye olde days. Imagine – social technology platforms helping to make people sociable again. Seductive. Very seductive.