Collaborative economy: sharing is living
You have probably heard of the collaborative economy, all those activities that involve the exchange of goods and services between people. But what exactly characterises this model and how can it be put into practice in the digital age?
Before the collaborative economy became a trend, its consumption was limited to the closest circle. Everything stayed at home, it was almost on a family scale. Yet, thanks to the Internet, it is possible to connect with people all over the world with common interests. The digitalisation of society and the economic crisis have favoured the development of new business models and new forms of consumption.
The collaborative economy has several advantages. The first, and most important, is that it allows us to optimise resources, because we can make our products more useful. In addition, it also offers the end consumer more variety. At the same time, it is a good model for making savings, because customers can buy second-hand goods and services at a lower price than the market price. All of this generates an ecosystem based on commitment, solidarity and the generation of ideas, often by entrepreneurs with new businesses, which generate employment, wealth and innovation.
On the other hand, however, it must also be borne in mind that the collaborative economy, being a model between individuals, does not have a legally regulated market and competition is quite unfair. For this reason, it is a sector that gives rise to complaints and protests from the sectors affected, a fact that can unprotect the consumer.
Sharing economy, a range of possibilities
Within this collaborative economy model, often also referred to as the “sharing economy”, there are many different types, with different functions, varying according to needs and products. There are, for example, collaborative consumption businesses, which use digital platforms through which users contact each other to exchange goods or items, such as collaborative transport, collaborative accommodation and collaborative second-hand trade, among others.
There are also open knowledge companies, all those businesses that promote the dissemination of knowledge without legal or administrative barriers. They can be presented on a day-to-day basis or through computer platforms to which users with needs come. There is also the collaborative production model, digital interaction networks that promote the dissemination of projects or services of all kinds. The difference with the two previous models is that what is offered is also produced within these platforms.
Finally, there are collaborative finance initiatives. Microcredits, loans, savings, donations and financing channels are included in this subgroup, where users get in touch to meet needs in any of these aspects. The best example is crowdfunding platforms, a funding model for those who wish to donate to specific initiatives.
The four characteristics of the model
Despite the heterogeneity of the businesses and industries that fall under this model, collaborative economy enterprises can be described by four characteristics:
- They use information technologies (ICT), available through web-based platforms such as mobile “apps” on internet-enabled devices, to facilitate transactions between two parties.
- They rely on user-based rating systems for quality control, which ensures a level of trust between consumers and service providers not previously encountered.
- They offer workers flexibility because this team often delivers their services through digital correspondence platforms.
- The team has its own tools. To the extent that tools and assets are necessary to provide a service, digital matching companies rely on workers to use their own.
In short, the collaborative economy model can help our businesses grow, because it allows consumers to make savings, because it is committed to sustainable development, because it promotes a new management of resources, because there is more choice and because, in the end, all of this brings environmental benefits.
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