There are so many resources in our world that there is wasteful overlap. People own cars that they don’t utilize. They take vacations and leave a home or apartment vacant. We all own clothes that we’ll never wear again. Enter the concept of collaborative consumption. I first learned about it as a formalized concept via a namesake website, and the basic tenet of this way of thinking is that sharing should be made easier.
Technology is supposed to make things more efficient. From speeding up stock trading markets (think Bloomberg) to communicating in a more efficient manner (think Skype, WhatsApp, etc) to even consuming content (think Twitter, FlipBoard, etc), we want what we want in an efficient, streamlined manner. Technology is a (mostly) egalitarian way of routinizing any market to ensure maximum efficiency, but we aren’t necessarily doing that yet.
I am constantly fascinated by the idea of maximizing the efficiency of our things. My favorite example of the collaborative consumption concept is Bib + Tuck, a site that allows you to post gently warn (designer) clothes in a sleek fashion to a site, and then trade those clothes for “bucks” that ultimately allow you to buy others’ gently warn clothes. The concept may seem like a massive thrift store, but I’ve gotten some of my wardrobe staples from the site. The idea is brilliant, because I have a closet full of clothes I don’t wear.
Education is another seemingly unrelated example in which we have seen collaborative consumption pick up. Companies like Coursera and Skillshare allow non-academics to leverage their knowledge base and skills to teach others. I have taken Skillshare classes ranging on topics from “how to network in BD” to “how to move from finance to tech.”
Finally, crowdsourcing and more particularly crowd funding from companies like Kickstarter are a great example of collaborative consumption. Leveraging the masses to raise money, solicit opinions or advice, or rally excitement are all done to great effect in a collaborative consumption effort. The difference between this and tapping into your social network is that collaborative consumption demonstrates a market efficiency, matching all of the potentially interested parties.
In my opinion, the next phase of collective sharing is to enter the world of social capital and social good. I’d love to see political, non-profit and NGO realms leverage these concepts to make their orgs efficient and streamlined, and to match up interested parties to get the ball rolling. The combination of preventing waste and overlap with finding maximum efficiency sounds to me like the perfect symbiosis.