How charities can benefit from the sharing economy

We explore the rise of the ‘sharing economy’ thanks to digital apps and platforms, and how it can help charities.

Chloe Green | 8th Nov 19

Chances are, you’ve stayed in a property through a house sharing platform like Airbnb, used a ride-sharing app like Uber or Lyft, bought something from eBay, Vinted or Poshmark, or even made a four-legged friend through Borrow My Doggy. Without perhaps realising it, you’ve participated in the sharing economy.

Over the last few years there has been a radical shift in the way that products, services and resources are distributed, enabled by the web and digital connectivity. Individuals with time, resources or skills to share can now easily lend or sell them to others in need of whatever it is they have, whether it’s a task, a car ride, a house or a dog.

It’s been disrupting the traditional model of consumption for the last few years, and none of this would be possible without the ability to connect, verify and coordinate people through digital platforms.

What makes the sharing economy and charities such an ideal match is that these platforms are rooted in a collaborative, sustainable ethos that often also define how charities operate. The benefits are:

 

It helps the environment

Sharing platforms enable the ability to repurpose, resell and only make use of resources when they’re needed, leading to a more responsible use of resources. Why buy things new when you can get them second hand and collect them directly from the seller? This is the core purpose of food sharing apps like Olio, allowing people to share the leftover food they don’t use and reduce food waste.

 

It’s efficient and convenient

The ability to get on-demand services and resources through a sharing app means you only pay for what you need, when you need it, saving money and time. Need a job doing, but don’t want to hire a whole new contracted employee just to make your video, design your website, manage your data entry task or get your tax return done? Find a verified expert quickly and easily app like Fiverr or Upwork.

 

It gives opportunities to people

Whether it’s their full-time job or just their side gig, by participating in the sharing economy, you are supporting small and one-person businesses. The word-of-mouth nature of these platforms means that those who do a good job get rewarded with more work, helping put the spotlight on talented people and helping kickstart their careers.

 

It creates a sense of community

The divide between consumers and distributors is dissolving. Instead, it’s being replaced by the idea of a community of people who all mutually benefit. Renting part of a co-working office space only when you need it allows for more flexibility and less office expenditure, but also the opportunity to work alongside like-minded people and collaborate in ways that may not have previously been possible.

 

Of course, the sharing economy is not without its downsides. If your charity is considering leverage these platforms, it’s important to do your research.

The massive growth of Uber and its string of blunders and scandals has shown that when platforms grow too large too quickly, they can present risks to users on both sides. When you use a sharing platform are putting your trust in someone else to fulfil their half of the bargain. Ensure that any platform you use has proper safety checks in place, and always be alert for fraud and scams.

In 2019, we’re likely reaching the end of the first growth spurt of the sharing economy. As the race to grow new apps and platforms begins to slow down, more focus will likely be on creating platforms that are trustworthy, responsible and sustainable for the communities they operate in.