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Why own when you can share? Are we entering the era of collaborative consumption?


The concept of collaborative consumption takes a very — and we mean very — old idea in economics and gives it a new shine in our era of electronic social networking. It’s all about sharing, trading or renting products or services as opposed to owning them.

One of the champions of the concept is Rachel Botsman, a consultant and former director of the William J. Clinton Foundation. At the TEDx Sydney conference in Sydney last year, Botsman laid out the idea (just as she does in “What’s Mine is Yours,” a book she co-authored with Roo Rogers).

Botsman says the Internet allowed people to come out from behind their credit cards and start sharing with each other again. EBay and Craigslist are very early examples, but the concept has gone much further, with peer-to-peer services in areas such as travel (CouchSurfing), cars (RelayRides) and social lending (Zopa).

Botsman says collaborative consumption’s strength today was brought on by:

  • A renewed belief in importance of community
  • A torrent of peer-to-peer social networks and real-time technologies
  • Pressing unsolved environmental concerns
  • A global recession that has fundamentally shocked consumer behavior

In some cases, the need to own stuff has disappeared into the cloud. We don’t want DVDs, we just want the movie. We don’t want CDs, we just want the music or software.

Do you see collaborative consumption happening in your life or in your business ventures? Is that a good or bad thing?

Rachel Botsman on collaborative consumption