Note: this is a continuation to Breakers to Makers Recap: Part 1.
The sharing economy can be a force for good
The third and final panel on ‘positive disruption’, led by the Financial Times' Murad Ahmed, examined the potential of the sharing economy to increase its capacity for good. Much was made of the possibilities for data gathered by sharing platforms to be utilised (sensitively and anonymously) to aid city planners in everything from traffic management to crisis control.
Helen Goulden, Executive Director at Nesta Innovation Lab, stated that the extent to which society could potentially benefit from this has yet to be recognised. While some cities actively work with tech firms to use the data creatively, others often take legal action against firms for obtaining such information from citizens in the first place. This conflict makes it hard for firms to set global plans and long-term goals.
Goulden also spoke of the sharing economy's role in easing the pressure caused by an ageing population and government cuts in social and health funding. The sector’s alternative care models and more efficient use of resources could be essential in addressing society’s cash pressures.
Remo Gerber, CEO at Gett UK, believes the next five years will see the sharing firms becoming a major force for good due to the information they will possess and their logistical ability to mobilise communities. Airbnb’s Sofia Gkiousou spoke of Airbnb’s program to assist authorities in times of housing emergencies, and how this model is an example of government, community and sharing cooperation.
Is it time to rethink the ‘disruptive’ narrative?
One of the most intriguing debates of the day concerned the ‘disruption’ narrative, so popular in the media and so prevalent in firms’ elevator pitches.
Alex Stephany of JustPark raised a concern with the popular media narrative of entrepreneur-as-disruptor. Entrepreneurs do not, according to Stephany, set out to "kill" existing businesses; their motivation lies rather in solving a problem and pioneering new ways of doing things.
Matthew Hancock, in his address, added he was in favour of “disruptive technology, but not of disruption of the economy”.
Local and global – not mutually exclusive
Despite how it is portrayed by the mainstream media, Helen Goulden, Executive Director of Nesta Innovation Lab, argued that the sharing economy will in fact empower local movements.
Unlike large corporations which typically operate from a centralised Headquarters, global sharing economy businesses such as Airbnb and Onefinestay have an intimate understanding of local communities and often work with these on municipal projects.
The local-versus-global conversation also explored the impact sharing economies can have on local communities and regional legislators. Airbnb interacts and engages with law-makers on a regular basis, said Gkiousou. Their questions are “legitimate” and such conversations should be welcomed rather than shunned.
More to come
The above is just an overview of what was discussed at Breakers to Makers. We’ll be delving into some of these topics in greater detail in the coming weeks, so be sure to sign up to our mailing list and get our updates.
Thanks again to all those who took part. We’d love to hear more of your thoughts, so if you have any comments or suggestions, do get in touch!