“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them” -Ernest Hemingway

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them”  -Ernest Hemingway 

“Trust in me, just in me, shut your eyes and trust in me” – Python Kaa’s song from the Jungle Book

Since our last “Sharing is caring” blog, the momentum for all things collaborative has gathered pace. The “Sharing Economy” encompasses anything from skill swopping, home exchange, time banking and recycling  to the peer-to-peer rental, a fascinating new disruptive economic model. As examples, WhipCar enables individuals to rent out their vehicles to local neighbours  whilst goCarShare , which has been particularly successful targeting music festivals, enables car seats to be hired out where passengers contribute to petrol and the running costs of the car .

Space – sharing organisations such as Sharemystorage and Thestorenextdoor enable people with spare space at home to provide storage facilities for their local neighbours whilst earning a return on otherwise unoccupied space.  What’s exciting about the peer-to peer rental model is it provides an opportunity to generate income from assets that are being dramatically underutilized and obviates the need to buy and own things that are used once in a blue moon – the story about the average electric drill being used for only 12 minutes may well be apocryphal ….but only slightly. The current economic environment, where real incomes are being squeezed relentlessly, is a perfect one in which these types of  sharing and renting initiatives should thrive.

Well, it’s not quite so simple. Back to Ernest Hemingway on trust – we can dismiss Python Kaa! Last week  at Telefonica’s global  developer  platform BlueVia’s   Collaborative Consumption Camp,  the issue of  trust ( sometimes verging on paranoia) emerged as one of the major barriers to a successful peer-to-peer business. For Drummond  Gilbert, founder of goCarShare, the  mythical psycopathic axe murderer  was on most people’s minds whilst at thestorenextdoor,  it was  the pyromaniac storing  a cache of fireworks.

Recent events have undermined the public’s trust in a number of institutions such as the banks, parliament, the food industry, the police, the press – the list is endless – and it appears that for peer-to-peer renting, where trust is fundamental, the same reservations apply. There are all number of reasons why we are more reluctant to trust each other – the fact that we are too busy working to get to know our neighbours; the all-pervasive health and safety culture which militates against community activities; the geographical  fragmentation of the family unit – we often move to get jobs -  and media scare-mongering to name a few.

So how can the issue of trust be addressed when it involves individuals sharing in some cases personal and intimate spaces?

Insurance is one way that individuals can feel more secure about their transactions but it is often extremely complicated and expensive to administer.  Rating systems– such as those used by Amazon, eBay and AirBnB  – can also enhance reputation and build “trust”. The problem is that for the plethora of collaborative, peer-to-peer businesses that are emerging, there is no aggregated rating system to refer to and it appears that those organisations which have collected valuable data regarding buyers and sellers e.g Ebay and Airbnb are not willing to freely share that data – not very collaborative!  An alternative is to use social networking sites such as Facebook as a “trust metaphor” to gather information and build communities around certain interests e.g travel routes, bands etc . This is perhaps a first step but it is clear that for most collaborative consumption networks to be able to scale successfully, a more comprehensive and independent rating system is essential.

Wednesday June 20th is National Sharing Day with a whole range of mass sharing activities taking place across the country organised by The People who Share.  There are so many ways to get involved – and  so, to borrow the Nike catchphrase – just do it!

Resources:

Compareandshare.com  is the marketplace for the Sharing Economyaiming eventually to  aggregate all sharing, making it easier for people to find shares and swaps.

Rachel Botsman’s TED talk on Collaborative Consumption

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