jueves, 17 de octubre de 2013

Notes - Sharing cities and social innovation (Bologna, 17th october) #sce2013

Here are my notes for today´s conference at Smart City Exhibition in Bologna. As a part of the session titled Sustaining human Smart City: sharing, collaboration, community-based innovation, I was invited to prepare some introductory notes on the link of the sharing movement and cities, addressing some concepts around the idea of sharing cities and how new models of social organisation are re-shaping the way cities work and how this leads us to live in our cities in a more collaborative way. Besides this description of the concepts related to social innovation, I also raised some questions or challenges for the near future for this kind of innovations to reach more attention and, probably, avoid the risk of misusing the defying factor the sharing movement should imply before it turns banalized.

Is it really happening? Is it just wishful thinking behind a trendy idea? This was my starting point. Are we moving into a more collaborative society? In which ways? And why? I am not a big fan of using metaphors and, actually, as a social researcher, I was told not to use analogies or metaphors, but I dared to use the example of Wikipedia to raise some features of what a sharing city should encourage and promote. Wikipedia is a good way to explain the social changes we are facing and the changes that are behind the growing sharing movement. The sharing movement is an emerging idea bringing together a variety of themes and trends around a distributed society: collaborative consumption, , crowdfunding, disruptive innovation, distributed production, co-creation, co-working, etc.

The sharing movement is impacting different economic sectors and social behaviours creating new opportunities. And creating a new economy in its dawn that is called the sharing economy, but the sharing society should be more tan just economics. What drives and enables sharing? Technology, environmental awareness, global crisis, renaissance of community sense and new consumer profiles. In a few words, the intersection of digital mobile tools and location-based services fostering collective intelligence.

In this scenario, local authorities have the chance to play their role designing new policies to ease sharing services to find their place. This is not easy, and legal issues are raising, as these new services clash with the old ones (think of hotel, or taxis, for example), as previously other sectors were defied by digital transformations. And Shareable, one of the most active organisations, has prepared this useful report on public policies for a shareable city.

This is why cities like Seoul are preparing their own strategies to turn this movement into an economic development and job creation opportunity. Or why the Shareable Cities Resolution was adopted by the US Conference of Mayors, co-sponsored by fifteen mayors, and it states that mayors resolve to make their cities more shareable, encourage better understanding of the sharing economy, and create local task forces to review and address regulations that may hinder participation in the sharing economy

After this short introduction, I went through different services, platforms and projects exploring the idea of sharing. As you will see, they cover different sectors and, especially, different approaches. Services changing the way we move and challenging the idea of car ownership like Zipcar. Or Buzzcar, among several approaches to car-sharing.A new trend for bike-sharing across the world as an alternative for urban mobility. Services inventing new ways of travelling like Airbnb and people sharing their homes. Think how work patterns are reshaping the places we work in. Massive Open Online Courses as a completely different way of envisioning education as a shared activity. Kickstarter as the most known crowdfunding platform, but there are others like Ioby, Spacehive, Goteo, Indiegogo, Startify (Italy) Platforms changing the way we produce and access food in a collaborative way. Or creating new social enterprises in which people find solutions for affordable consumption in times of crisis Platforms to exchange and trade time and skills bypassing money as a measure of value on a local basis through community-based time banking organisations. People gathering to crowdsource knowledge through collective mapping. Social and digital innovation labs are emerging, like hacker space, to make technologies accesible and to share knowledge and skills to build community solutions for local problems and needs. Or think of this projet in which citizens try to build a telecommunications network open, free and neutral because is built through a peer to peer agreement where everyone can join the network by providing their connection, and therefore, extending the network and gaining connectivity to all. Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. And the project I like the most, Campo de Cebada, as it is the perfect intersection of activism, urbanism and communities enhanced by digital means. This vacant space has been transformed into a temporary public space co-managed by the residents to develop new ways of understanding and to construct an open-source urbanism based on ad-hoc solutions and common sense.

I closed with some remarks on the challenges we face ahead. The sharing movement is in its first steps and we should be careful if we want it to be meaningful and of high social impact. The first thing we need is to clarify legal barriers that are affecting this kind of projects that challenge the way we have been doing things traditionally. And this impacts certain economic sectors with huge power to stop these social innovations. The sharing economy exists almost in legal grey areas. There´s also a big challenge from those trying to develop new projects, because there is a huge distance between disruptive concepts and viable projects. In this sense, probably, there´s more to gain if we change the mindset from scaling, the tradicional way businesses grow, to distributed and networked growth of these platforms. Because, in the end, gaining a critical mass is one of the factors that affect the success of these projects. And, last but not least, I would like to stress that there is a risk that we are misusing and averusing the idea of sharing and confussing between a sharing society and a sharing economy. While the first one is focused on building communities, the second one is interested in building markets.

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