open_resource : ideas, points of view
and solutions from the actors of the resource revolution

← Back Solutions  

Will the cities of tomorrow be sharing cities?


Use rather than ownership: this is the credo of the sharing economy, against the backdrop of ever scarcer resources. From car-sharing to communal gardens, individuals who lend one another everyday objects and bartering: the sharing economy is not limited to large corporations, but also includes a multitude of initiatives on a local scale.

Neighbourhoods or entire towns that share their resources and build alternative models represent an underlying trend that can be seen all over the world. Shareable, an NGO founded in the United States in 2009, aims to federate all local players and initiators of this new vision of urban life.
SUEZ went to meet them.

Extract from

Back to local

From Detroit to Seoul, and from Lisbon to Nairobi, residents, NGOs and cooperatives are coming together to launch local projects: a voluntary bicycle repair shop, free computer programming lessons, reinventing food through community vegetable gardens, experiments in shared modes of transport, etc. All these projects promote sharing and collaboration between residents.

Building alternative models on a local scale for transport, culture, education and food is a response to the issue of increasingly scarce resources and sustainable urban development, as explains Tom Llewellyn, the Organizing Director at Shareable: “Even if a lot of things can be regulated on a national or international scale, cities are facing problems that can be solved locally: the habitat, food, mobility, job-seeking, healthcare, education, waste management. The good thing about these small-scale initiatives is that they work and they show us that we really need to change our culture.

Sharing ideas and resources

In the darkest depths of the economic crisis in the United States in 2009, the founders of Shareable joined forces to pursue a common ambition: how to promote these initiatives to the general public, and how to allow the people behind them to coordinate, to learn from one another’s respective experiences and, in doing so, to increase the impact of every single project? This is the reason behind Shareable, which started off as a website that was both a media and a network.

But the need to federate this community of project owners in “real life” soon emerged. This is the reason why Shareable started organising physical events, or MapJams, to bring all these good intentions together. An evocative name that refers to sessions in which the participants spend several days together drawing up a map of the tangible and intangible shared resources and the collaborative initiatives in their city: How many public libraries are there in the city, and where are they? Which districts have set up participatory budgets? Where is free training available? Which are the cooperative companies in the sector? After the first successful events in 2013, Shareable worked with numerous groups to host over 100 MapJams in 70 cities, attracting thousands of participants. From an information media, Shareable has now transformed into a genuine network of players who want to share their latest news, replicate best practices, share knowledge and organise events.

A success that says a lot about citizens’ wishes to invent new models and, according to Tom Llewellyn: “The sharing revolution is all about a shift in perspective. We need to introduce more new, equitable and sustainable solutions into our economic system and our communities, in terms of the way we produce, preserve and consume.”

What role can local authorities play in the sharing economy?

Far from opposing or replacing local public authorities, these initiatives, driven by residents, start-ups and associations, can be supported and encouraged by local
government. Certain big cities view them as an opportunity to further their economic and social development.
Following the organisation of a MapJam by Shareable in Amsterdam, the city authorities asked the association to go even further by localising all the initiatives and resources related to the sharing economy in the city. But Seoul is the city that has gone the furthest in the adoption of this trend. When it launched the Sharing City Seoul programme, the South Korean capital chose to promote the sharing economy through a structured public policy: the creation of an economic environment that supports sharing companies and organisations, the opening of libraries that lend books and tools, the promotion of self-sharing, etc. Seoul has wagered that the sharing city will improve the quality of life of its inhabitants. And in the future, will every city be a sharing city?

Find the full article in the second issue of open_resource magazine:
« Shaping resourceful cities »

You may also like