While Government Shut Down, the Global Sharing Movement Ramped Up

In October, while the US government exhibited maddening levels of dysfunction with a shutdown, the global sharing movement ramped up and demonstrated that if we want to get stuff done, we’re going to have to do it ourselves.

Around the world, people are getting hip to the idea that we need to create our own solutions to pressing global issues; that there’s no time to wait around because there’s no help coming. We are the help. We are the solution.

Through sharing resources, harnessing our collaborative potential, connecting people from all walks of life and incubating innovative ideas, we can create the world we want to live in. This is an about-face from the past notion that government will take care of us and move us, and the economy, forward.

While this movement is nothing new, October was a particularly fruitful month. The New Economy Coalition hosted New Economy Week; Peers took a first step toward building its community with its Dinner with Peers project; Shareable launched our worldwide Map Jam to map all the sharing services in cities around the world; OuiShare hit the road with its OuiShare Europe Tour, visiting 30 cities in two months; and Annie Leonard, creator of The Story of Stuff, released her latest video, a call to create a solutions movement, called The Story of Solutions.

In true sharing style, there was a good deal of synergy between these sharing initiatives. Many of the Sharing City Map Jams were held at stops on the Ouishare Europe DeTour, at some of the New Economy Week events, and Peers Dinners. OuiShare helped organize other map jams and Shareable helped promote OuiShare and New Economy Week events through it's magazine, event calendar and newsletter. And Center for New American Dream, Peers, Freelancers Union, and many other organizations helped promote Shareable's map jams. This mutual support across organizations is key to involving people from different backgrounds, as well as strengthening the decentralized, grassroots sharing movement that flies under no banner.

Shareable talked with some of the people behind the October events to find out what the motivation for creating them was, how they went, each organization’s big-picture view and what’s next for the sharing movement. Here’s what we found:

New Economy Week
The New Economy Coalition wanted to shine a spotlight on “the thousands of things people are doing right now to build a new kind of economy.” To do so, they created New Economy Week which ran in the middle of October. A distributed event, the week provided an opportunity to highlight people, organizations, actions, events, art projects and more that are creating an economy that puts people, place and planet first.

“All around the world,” says Eli Feghali, manager of communications and online organizing for the New Economics Institute, “community leaders and activists are challenging the socially-negligent, ecologically-blind status quo by building alternatives that prove another world is possible.”

He calls the economy a social force that encompasses the intersection of multiple systems, like food, energy, commerce, transportation, and more. The transformation of it requires a collaborative, focused approach.

“To transform the economy,” he says, “we have to build a movement of movements that is ready to address the root causes of problems, meaning we have to get serious about the need for system change.”

Activists at PowerShift, which ran during New Economy Week

He adds that New Economy Week was a chance to rally people together saying, “[It] was an opportunity for folks -- whether their passion was public banking, worker cooperatives, food justice, or community owned renewable energy -- to self-identify as being part of this broader movement for system change.”

The week included more than 75 events in 18 states and 2 Canadian provinces. A coalition called Vermonters for a New Economy took New Economy Week and, as Feghali puts it, “ran with it,” hosting more than 25 events in their state alone, including events supporting a growing campaign for a Vermont public bank.

The New Orleans TimeBank hosted a map jam during New Economy Week

This year’s event was a pilot project, but Feghali says it’s safe to say that it was a success and that the hope is that it can grow to become an annual celebration for a global transition to a new economy.

"Although not a surprise to us,” says Feghali, “it continues to inspire us to see just how many people all around the US and Canada are involved in building a new economy. We still have a lot of work to do to make this work visible to the general public,” he adds, “but New Economy Week was a big step in the right direction.”

OuiShare Europe Tour
OuiShare, a global network that started as a small group in Paris and has grown into an international force for sharing and connecting, hosted 30 sharing events in 30 cities over two months as part of its OuiShare Europe Tour. Stops included Bucharest, Warsaw, Brussels, London, Rome, Madrid and more. Event formats ranged from happy hour with 20 second project pitches to guest speakers, workshops and map jams.

While no one OuiShare "connector" went to all the stops on the tour, there were teams of connectors that traveled through the different countries together, setting up events, connecting with local sharers, raising awareness about the sharing economy and learning about the sharing movement at large.

OuiShare visionaries in Granada represent

One of OuiShare’s most important values, according to Francesca Pick, a OuiShare connector and coordinator of the Europe Tour, is MPRL: meeting people in real life. She says that this, along with connecting digitally, is key to building the movement.

“People need to connect regularly face-to-face on a local level and be able to discuss how the sharing economy is impacting them personally and the city they live in,” she says. “Otherwise, it's very hard to develop a sustainable community. On the other hand, online discussions and working together digitally plays an important role in connecting people across countries and making them feel part of a larger movement.” She continues, “Lots of potential is released when you connect the on and offline, the local and global. That's where the magic happens.”

OuiShare connectors on the OuiShare Europe Tour

The big takeaway from the Europe Tour for Pick is that by visiting different areas, some of which are already activated and some of which are just being introduced to the sharing movement, she and the other OuiShare connectors learned a lot about the movement and realized that bringing people together doesn’t have to be a huge production.

“Big events like this one are a great experience because they teach you a lot about what the organization you are building is, and what it is not,” she says. “We realized that the Europe Tour was not about organizing the biggest or best event in each country at all costs, but about giving people that share our values the opportunity to bring OuiShare to their city.”

Sharers gathered at a OuiShare Drinks event in Hamburg

Dinner With Peers
Peers, an organization created to support the sharing economy movement, invited people all around the world to connect over dinner. The project, which was dubbed Dinner With Peers, brought together sharing advocates in 92 cities across 32 countries.

Dinner with Peers in Nairobi

“We were blown away by the turn out,” says Milicent Johnson, director of partnerships and community building for Peers. “From Nairobi to Istanbul, to Budapest, to Ann Arbor, the outpouring of interest and generosity globally was a wonderful surprise, and speaks to the fact that this is a movement, and it’s being built by people all over the world.”

Johnson says that Dinner With Peers validated the hypothesis that Peers can play an important role in creating a culture around the sharing economy and that people want to find their fellow sharers to connect, learn, and organize.

Peers members share a meal in Michigan

“When people meet face-to-face, they open up, barriers break down and they realize uncanny and surprising commonalities,” says Johnson. “When a ridesharer, meets a co-housing member, meets a food sharer, sparks fly. They start to see this as not just a one-off action, but as a lifestyle and a movement that they're building.”

Johnson says that these connections are key for Peers, with its goal of serving the people who power the sharing economy, and for the movement in general. “Aside from the joy of experiences like that, it's important to create that layer of trust before a group can start coordinating and taking actions.”

Sharing a Peers dinner in Istanbul

She also sees the necessity of sharing organizations working together as it will take a global, sustained effort to grow the sharing movement.

“The wonderful thing about the sharing economy,” she says, “is that all of our efforts will help grow this movement. Building the sharing economy is going to take all of us, and it's nice to see that we're in a place to all be doing things to help build community in concert.”

Johnson points out that the different organizations have the ability to amplify each others’ message saying, “It's great to tell our community about different events they can plug into so that they can contribute in a way that appeals to them. I'm excited to see what we all build together.”

Shareable’s Worldwide Map Jam
For two weeks in October, people in 55 cities around the world, gathered to create maps of the collaborative, open, and sharing services in their cities. The first project of Shareable’s newly-launched Sharing Cities Network, the Map Jam proved to connect people around sharing and provide an at-a-glance picture of local sharing initiatives.

A densely-packed sharing map of Austin

The resulting maps are both inspiring, as they illustrate the vast number of people, places and services that are centered on people and planet rather than profit, and helpful as they are a way for residents to find local sharing services. Ahmad Sufian Bayram hosted a virtual map jam of the emerging sharing economy in the Arab states; OuiShare connector David Weingartner hosted map jams along the German leg of the OuiShare Europe Tour; Maya Pilgrim hosted a map jam in Austin as part of Austin Sustainable Swap; Darren Sharp hosted the Melbourne map jam, Diana Filippova hosted a jam in Paris; and many more.

Mira Luna, Shareable’s Organizing Director and the project lead, says that for the last decade people all over the world have been mapping the solidarity economy, as well as different sharing projects like community gardens, housing coops, coworking spaces or bike sharing organizations. An experienced mapper who has created maps for the Bay Area, Detroit, Ann Arbor and Chicago, she calls the maps “incredibly powerful tools for inspiring people to take action.” She says that once people see there is already a lot of momentum in their own communities, they begin to mobilize.

A Map Jam in Barcelona

“The worldwide map jam,” Luna says, “is like a manifestation of a movement becoming conscious of itself. Events in general can be a catalyst for large scale social change by supporting replication, scaling up and collaboration.” She continues, “Sharing organizations can become aware of their common values and the potential for transforming society as a whole to be cooperative, caring and co-creative.”

Luna stresses that it’s essential we don't put sharing in a quarantined box in our lives. “We need to integrate it into everything we do,” she says, “to change the DNA of our culture and economy.”

Map Jammers in Eugene, Oregon

She says that the sharing movement has the potential to transform our world because it's the kind of activism where you just create the world you want to be in now, rather than asking, waiting and hoping for someone else to do it for you later.

“[C]reating a sharing city will actually drastically transform your daily experience of life for the better,” she says. “Even just taking your first dip into the sharing world, you'll notice the difference in the way you see the world and trust people more.” She points out that it's way more fun to yardshare, garden, and potluck together than drive to a big box store, shop under florescent lights and heat up your macaroni in the microwave while watching TV. She adds, “I love that the maps are a resource for living in that new paradigm...we have to act as if the world we want is already here and before you know it, it will be.”

The Buenos Aires Map Jammers

The Story of Solutions
When Annie Leonard made The Story of Stuff in 2007, there was no way of knowing what a widespread impact it would have. By illustrating the destructive nature of our consumption-based culture in a thoughtful and entertaining style, Leonard planted a seed in millions of minds that there has to be a better way.

Over the last six-plus years, the Story of Stuff has grown into a global community. Leonard and the Story of Stuff team have created videos that shine a light on issues including bottled water, the cosmetics industry, cap and trade, and the economy. Despite being informative, the videos left people wanting to know what could be done.

For her latest video—and last in the Story of Stuff series—Leonard pivoted to give the people what they want: a story of solutions. Appropriately titled The Story of Solutions, the video paints a big vision picture of what it means to rethink, not just what we do with an empty water bottle, but what we can do to move away from an entire culture of overconsumption. The video inspires viewers to think about the types of solutions that will make a real difference.

“The thing is,” she told Alternet, “I began to see that the kind of solutions work that many folks were doing was too often addressing the symptom rather than the drivers of the problem. And even if folks were advancing really good, deep, transformational solutions, there were some common, consistent barriers in their way.”

Rather than trying to raise awareness about pressing issues one at a time, Leonard encourages us to consider ways we can move outside of our endless-growth economy altogether. By shifting from an awareness-building approach to a solutions-based approach, Leonard signals that the time to act is now. It’s up to us to create the world we want to live in. Because remember? We are the help. We are the solution.

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Top photo by Les Chatfield (CC). Follow @CatJohnson on Twitter and Facebook

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