Lets face it; buzzwords have become part of our culture. Words like cloud computing, engagement, sustainability, gamification. These important concepts are mainstream and cited everywhere. Recently, I’ve started to pay closer attention to a few social buzzwords of our own at the Foundation like “collaborative economy, collaborative consumption, and the sharing economy.” It’s easy to guess what they mean, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that the definitions vary, but their meanings are significant to our community and our work here.
To help grasp this a little better, let’s start with defining the terms. A collaborative economy is simply a network of connected individuals or communities. Collaborative consumption is an economic model of sharing or renting a product or service – enabling access over service. The sharing economy is somewhat of a blend of the first two terms, and is the peer-to-peer, or network-based sharing of underutilized assets. To simplify the definition of the sharing economy even more, think of the term as a method of matching people’s wants with people’s haves on a micro-level to create mass collaboration.
Why is the sharing economy important to Southwest Florida? Perhaps you’ve read about Uber in the paper. Or maybe you know (and envy) someone that has a job where they work from home or a co-working facility. Again, what is the significance? The historical definition of work is changing. The days of working for a pension or for great insurance are disappearing.
The sharing economy has surfaced out of necessity, and it is fueling a sustainable future for the next generation of workers. Southwest Florida has kept a relatively low cost of living; however, the workforce still faces the challenge of steep healthcare, increasing food prices, and stagnant wages. Add to that, a developing global economy that is competing for our jobs and adapting in new and innovative ways becomes a requirement. The sharing economy is not the answer to all of these problems, but it is a promising start.
The same can be said for nonprofits, grants and funding. Everyone is demanding less duplication and efficiency, which requires coming out of isolation to address regional challenges. We talk about sharing assets and expanding and enhancing the work of nonprofits by identifying shared outcomes and working together to create collective impact in the region. Adapting to these shifts in our economy and society is what drives innovation and the long-term sustainability of the region.
As familiar concepts like taking a cab or working for a major corporation fade away, so too does the traditional definition of sharing – or giving. Instead of a workforce looking to our generation to help them out, they are essentially helping us out. Advances in technology, better utilization of natural and tangible resources, and most importantly, the normalization of networking and sharing information are all products of the sharing economy and essential to creating regional change for common good. So, as you can see, as a regional community foundation, we are focused on today’s community challenges with an eye on the future. While there are no buzzwords for that yet, we’d love to hear your thoughts, you can reach me at TLesage@floridacommunity.com.
Photo by Change Magazine