Are we sharing or collaborating?


27 Jul Are we sharing or collaborating?

As we travel around spreading the word about the Futurewave project and its potential impact on the UK energy market, we’re discovering that while people are excited to look at the project through the collaborative consumption lens, there’s still some confusion about what exactly collaborative consumption is, and what it isn’t.

The sharing economy, on-demand services, collaborative consumption  – each of these are terms that have gained prominence recently as we’ve sought to find ways to describe the new business models that are changing the world as we know it.

Essentially what we’re talking about here are digital platforms that are handing back control of products and services to individuals, communities and organisations. According to The ‘Making Sense of the UK Collaborative Economy’ report from Nesta and Collaborative Lab, published last September, ‘a quarter of the UK population have used digital technologies to access goods, services, money and knowledge from new people–powered networks and marketplaces’.

Take a moment to consider your own life and I’m sure you’ll be able to find at least one applicable example. Ever bought or sold anything on eBay? Watched something on Netflix? Thought about renting a room through Airbnb?

If you have then you will have experienced first-hand the impact that these ‘people-powered’ platforms have and the value that they create for customers. While each of these models have customers and technology at their core, they have quite different purposes. And this is where confusion can creep in.

To give you more detail, here are some  great resources on collaborative consumption. We hope that you will find this content informative and welcome your suggestions for other thinking on the subject that we could share through this blog.

  1. This short article from a recent debate led by The Foundation quickly sums up the collaborative economy through three different lenses. One from the co-founder of the world’s first peer-to-peer money lending platform,, one from the chairman of the world’s first self-service phone company, GiffGaff and the last from the founder of advertising agency VCCP, who advises many organisations by understanding human behaviour.
  2. This article on The Huffington Post references the impact of the collaborative and sharing economy on the energy sector.
  3. For those who like a more detailed report, this report from Nesta and Collaborative Lab referenced above gives a detailed insight into where the UK’s collaborative economy is up to.
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