Does a nourished tree withhold its’ fruit? No. The same is true for humans who live in an abundant mindset with healthy boundaries and an attitude of gratitude. The basic social currency in this world is abundant love. The traditional economic model runs counter to this and has everyone competing for finite resources with an underlying narrative of scarcity. Communities that reciprocate love create a perpetuating cycle where the more you give, the more you will receive thus increasing a sense of belonging and abundance for all. What if the underlying core economic belief was replaced with the idea that there is more than enough for all of us?
A Changing Economic Landscape
Millennials, who have grown up in less thriving economic times seem to grasp the sharing concept better than previous generations. They are more likely to invest in experiences than “things”. In contrast, the Baby-Boomers generation came of age during thriving economic times and are more prone to equate wealth with material possessions.
Young people are living more with less and getting by with a little help from their friends. Instead of competing to be on top of the heap, millennials are cooperating to make sure that everyone gets their needs met. This perspective allows wealth to be seen in non-material ways while generally producing less-stressed and happier individuals with community values. Perhaps a cross-generational exchange will encourage a hybrid of understanding between material wealth and non-material wealth?
A Paradigm Shift
This profound lifestyle shift from competition to cooperation is based on a community model of commerce that allows individuals to exchange goods and services one on one (peer to peer). Sharing or leveraging our collective wealth has the ability to create more abundance for all of us and technology is helping to make this possible. Concepts like social equity or social capital allow individuals to think of value, or wealth in non-monetary terms that can also easily translate to economic abundance for the creative entrepreneur. The technologically savvy millennials are re-inventing the economic game.
“What’s happening here is people are realizing the power of technology to unlock the idling capacity and value of all kinds of assets, from skills to spaces to material possessions, in ways and on a scale never possible before.” -Rachel Botsman, TED Talk
The Age of the Conscious Consumer
How you spend your time and money reflects your value system. For example, “buying local” means that you want to support your neighbor instead of a foreign corporation. Buying organic means that you value your health and want to support agriculture that isn’t heavy on pesticides. When you choose to rent through Airbnb, or purchase through Ebay you are able to directly support individuals while lowering your cost by cutting out “the middle man”.
Commerce thrives in an environment of trust. With expensive greenwashing campaigns to cover the negative environmental practices of large companies, or fancy advertisements to cover socially unethical labor practices, consumers are becoming increasingly cynical about standard corporate practices. Social media and blogging have led to an unprecedented transparency in the way that business is conducted, emerging technology has also enabled new ways for products and services to be exchanged in the market.
These days, it seems that any platform that uses the power of the internet to efficiently match people’s wants with people’s haves is labelled the ‘sharing economy’. -Collaborative Consumption
Imagine living in an urban environment where storage is minimal and you need a drill to complete a project around the house. Rather than purchase a drill that you may use once or twice a year, you can borrow one from a neighbor for a fraction of the cost. This helps you and your neighbor.
Consumers recognize that access is more important than ownership and technology increasingly helps consumers find, borrow, rent, share goods instead of buying them. This is the essence of collaborative consumption.
The Up-Side to a Down Economy
During the depression era, people turned to self-reliance and community resilience. Neighbors grew more of their own food and bartered to meet their needs. People threw out less stuff, finding innovative ways to repurpose goods and return them to market. A great example was women who turned old flour or potato sacks into clothing. This sharing of ideas influenced fashion and cultural trends which created new markets.
We see the same trends emerging today with digital swap-meets like E-Bay or Craigslist, up-cycling, ride-sharing and more. In modern times the sharing economy grew in prominence during the economic crash of 2008 which also coincided with internet and social media technologies coming of age. As people learned they could not depend on banks or the greater economy, they turned to each other. While the elites compete, the struggling and middle-class are learning to work together to leverage their resources to lift each other up.
A Model for our Times
The sharing of resources also has the added benefit of being good for the environment as people learn to do more with less. Social justice suffers when there is disparity between the “haves’ and “have-nots”, and when people’s basic needs are not met. In a world where greed and scarcity threaten all of us, cooperative models and sharing help to level the playing field. This economic model is more sustainable in the long-term because it encourages the sense that we are all here to help each other and work together.
The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. -Wikipedia
The sharing economy is not a private brand owned to profit a few. This is an open-sourced, participatory movement that is based on the ethics of community living. Cultural creatives are leading the way and turning ideas into social capital that translates to real-world wealth. The end result is increased value for everyone.
The resources, information, and inspiration are endless just like the human imagination. While the crumbling economic order preaches austerity and bail-outs for failed banking models, a new paradigm is being birthed by a generation that is no longer willing to wait for change. These are the people who are making it happen, and each of us have the ability to be the solutions we have been waiting for. When we “share the love” we learn to share resources and goods to increase each others wealth as well as our own individual worth in the larger community. What kind of fruit will you bear?