Collaborative Economy Paves The Way To New Era of Collaborative Purpose


The sharing or collaborative economy is growing daily around the world and quickly morphing into a recognized driver of purpose as much as democratized access and convenience. 

As the eras of purposeful business and sharing collide, the impact has been massive and far-reaching. By combining the core tenets of profiting with purpose with the new notions of trust and borrowing vs. ownership the collaborative economy is based upon, the global business landscape is experiencing a groundswell shift as powerful as the one felt in the days of the Industrial Revolution.

As this movement continues to evolve, we are seeing the new economy positively impact all walks of society including: innovation, economic development, equity, safety and implementation. Examples of this are rampant as both cities and emerging market regions around the world seek to harness the awesome mettle of this new economic engine to drive meaningful growth, development, transformation and collective purpose.

This is a refreshing twist as for far too long the power of collaborative consumption and its groundbreaking innovation has been relegated largely to the topics of ride and home sharing. The far greater opportunity to view the sharing economy as a massive economic shift that is positively altering the way we live work and play and impacting areas as far ranging as urbanization and sustainability, has unfortunately been mostly overlooked. 

Over the last two years or so positive examples of collaborative purpose have been slowly emerging. In the United States, Etsy’s Craft Entrepreneurship programs in New York City, Chicago, Dallas, Newark and Santa Cruz give new life to public-private collaboration and allow first-hand exposure to new business models. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the Bloomberg Mayor’s Challenge is proposing to apply sharing economy principles in different ways to help imbue new energy and innovation into the region. In Asia, Seoul’s Society 3.0 has supported dozens of resident-led sharing initiative with public funding and other resources, with the primary goal of boosting community connectedness trust and purposeful collaboration. 

As recently as this month, the models of collaborative purpose have only become more striking and powerful. For example, the sharing economy is gradually coming to more and more aspects of African life, including home cleaning and ridesharing. Now, Ghanaian startup Swiftly is taking it into the shipping space.

Launched earlier this year, Swiftly matches people with goods to ship with spare space in containers, whether being sent by sea, air or land. Chief executive officer (CEO) Edem Dotse told Disrupt Africa this month that the service has benefits in terms of both the cost of shipping goods and protecting the environment.

“It is just wasteful when someone has to ship a half full container by sea, or a half full package by air, or hire a delivery truck or van without fully utilizing the space,” Dotse said.

The opportunity for purposeful collaboration in Africa, the world’s fastest growing economy is massive.  The elements highlighted by local providers - access to more work opportunities in struggling employment markets, and a pre-existing culture of sharing assets - may contribute to the fact that on-demand services have encountered limited opposition in Africa to date and will likely continue to flourish without abatement. This is a trend likely to continue in similar emerging markets around the world. 

Another great recent example of purposeful sharing is UK based start up OLIO.  OLIO connects neighbors with each other and local shops so that food can be shared instead of thrown away. They are trying to reduce food waste which is a huge problem in the UK and globally (50% of the  £10 billion of good food wasted in the UK/year comes from the home). They currently have over 55,000 users, and have been used over 200,000 times to share surplus food. 

In our emerging world of placing the “we” over the “me,” the collaborative purpose movement in business is just another example of the awesome power of We-Commerce and proof of the longevity and transformative power of our new economy. OLIO’s mission statement perhaps describes what our new world is about best: “Small collective actions can lead to big change.”

Billee Howard is the Founder of Brandthropologie where she helps brands with collaborative content and digital storytelling. She has also recently launched a class on “How to Executive Produce Your Brand For Dummies


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