Collaborative Consumption (or sharing stuff so we don't all need to own it—Idea #1*)

Feb 25, 2012


Collaborative consumption.

Rachel Botsman coined the phrase, but the movement away from individual ownership to sharing is big—and it's global. If you are not familiar with the idea of collaborative consumption, here are three ways to catch up fast:

"What does this have to do with workforce development?" you might ask.

A lot.

First, people in the throes of unplanned career transition often need to radically reduce their expenses. Collaborative consumption facilitates this in three ways:

  • It helps people access products and services they need (from lawnmowers to cars to kids clothing) without having to buy them outright;
  • It helps people monetize stuff that have but rarely use (renting lawnmowers, car or tools, even a spare bedroom, for example); and
  • It helps people develop new networks—by meeting and interacting with neighbors they may not know and whom they might not meet in other ways. These interactions help people newly-isolated from former colleagues interact with others, keeping spirits up and possibly leading to new opportunities for paid work.

In addition, as we noted in our post on peer-ro-peer learning and badges, new platforms are enabling people to learn real skills from each other that can help them build portfolios or transition jobs or careers. This is a form of sharing that builds skills and credentials.

Finally, from the perspective of growing numbers of collaborative consumers, the shift away from individual ownership is not a temporary one. New terms like "The Share Economy" are redefining what it means to trade with each other. We see this in the rise of co-housing and co-working—people intentionally sharing their homes and workplaces with others not for the money alone, but for a host of other benefits that accrue socially, professionally, and in terms of community well-being.

What else could we do?

The implications for workforce development are quite significant from a program point of view (are we helping people who need to downsize understand how to participate in this alternative economy?), a policy point of view (are we facilitating the lifelong learning we have been advocating all these year, now that so much of it is accessible at no cost?), and from an organizational point of view (how could our agencies and organizations benefit from participating in the collaborative consumption movement?).

Oh the possibilities...

Here are two additional resources that may help you see them:
1. Anya Kamanetz's Edupunks' Guide to a DIY Credential
2. Shareable's
The Gen Y Guide to Collaborative Consumption.

Got stuff to share?

* This is part of a series of entirely subjective posts intended to inspire greatness among applicants to the Workforce Innovation Fund. The opinions and perspectives expressed here are not those of Social Policy Research, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) or anyone other than the author. Please steal the ideas you find most promising.


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