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All posts Big Society collaboration

Collaborative consumption: making what's mine yours and ours

The innovation agency NESTA today hosted an event on Collaborative Consumption … which turns out to mean sharing, trading, bartering goods and services with others – things that we have been doing for centuries.
The main speaker was Rachel Botsman, author of the book What’s mine is yours, and afterwards I asked Rachel what’s so different now. The answer is the Internet, which allows us to book cars for as little as an hour or two from our neighbours rather than a fleet (Whipcar), volunteer our skills (Timebanking), or lend and borrow from each other rather than through banks (Zopa).
Rachel gave a brilliantly engaging talk, which you can see here, together with a video of her presentation at TEDxSydney. There was a rather good little booklet which I can’t find online, but will add as a link if it is available.
Much collaborative consumption does of course take place without the Internet, although adding a new name like Landsharing may prompt the return of an old idea, and old benefits. Rachael tests some of her ideas on her parents … who took to the notion of allowing neighbours to grow vegetables in a corner of their garden: that’s a landshare. The result: Rachel’s Dad remarked that this was the first time he had know his neighbour’s name in 18 years.
Rachel is enthusiastic for the idea of the Big Society (previous posts here), which certainly involves a lot of sharing, volunteering and redesigning of the way that we get public (and private) services.However, we both agreed that Big Society isn’t an easy idea to explain … while something like the stories of sharing and exchanging are easily understood, and useful.

Rachel was off to No 10 later in the day for a round table discussion, so we may hear more about her ideas from government. As Rachel remarked, it’s difficult to realise Big Society locally if you don’t know your neighbours’ names.

As Cyberdoyle wrote in an excellent post recently, we used to do a lot of exchange face-to-face:

In the ‘Old Days’ our society revolved round communication. Over the garden wall on a Monday morning when the washing was pegged out, the ‘gossip’ would go down the roads, passing on wisdom, advice and help through the cogs and wheels. Meeting the kids after school in the playground all the mums would catch up on stuff, again sharing problems or worries as well as having fun. This is how a big society worked, just like a watch. The lads would meet up at the chapel, the auction, the pub etc and do the same. (Contrary to most belief the biggest gossips were the men)… but that is the way to get stuff off your chest, and in the process get or give help.
Gossip is what makes the fingers on the watch and the world go round. If you don’t know the lad up the road just lost his sheepdog you don’t get the chance to let him know the lad down the road on the farm just whelped a tidy litter.
If you don’t know the man next door has just been diagnosed as a diabetic and is very worried, you can’t put him in touch with the lady you met at church last week whose husband is coping brilliantly with diabetic treatments and living a totally normal life. Due to the pressures of modern life and lackof TIME, caused by most young families needing two wages, and youngsters moving away to cities for work, away from extended family, this social interaction is now being done digitally.
Facebook, twitter, blogs, texting and chatting.

Cyberdoyle uses this as a good argument for rural broadband, and I agree.
Models for collaborative consumption online take us beyond the equivalent of that over-the-fence gossip towards the additional benefits of doing things together, as well as talking. We’ll need more of that in future.