It’s not about the platforms

A few weeks, I gave a presentation where I told the audience that the “collaborative economy” is not something clearly defined and that my view of it was simply one of many. Now I find myself needing to clarify what my view is, as I become increasingly conscious of the fact that at the moment, it is often being defined in terms which I’m not comfortable with.

When I speak about the “collaborative economy”, I focus on three different areas:

The values:

Me at tech start-up dayIf you have read my other blogs, you’ll have read about respect, responsibility, relationship and community which I believe are increasingly influencing the choices of consumers. In the last week, I’ve been to “Tech Startup” day (see selfie..) and “Salon Entreprendre 2015”. I heard a lot about the platforms in the “new” economy (not surprisingly at a tech start-up event I admit) but at no stage do I remember presenters talk about what actually helps you get value from those platforms.

A high percentage of crowdfunding campaigns fail, not because the platforms are bad but because the projects didn’t understand that the platform doesn’t create communities, it enables them. The articulation of the values behind the project is often what engages the community. To illustrate the point, take a look at this funny example:

Again, it isn’t because of Indiegogo that people support the project but because they understood the values behind the project.

The technology/platforms:

I cannot deny that there is certainly a correlation between the growth of Peer-2-Peer (P2P) platforms such as Airbnb, Uber and Kickstarter and the growth of awareness around the “collaborative economy”.  That being said, not everything related to these platforms is positive. Of course, the more we dis-intermediate traditional providers such as hotels, taxi’s or supermarkets, the more this will put a strain on their ability to employ people. I was walking through Brussels two weeks ago when the taxis went to strike against Uber which is just one of many visible signs of discontent. Some people will get rich (a very small minority) and others will get screwed. To be honest, I wouldn’t use Uber as a great example of collaboration, other than forcing the taxis to collaborate with each other.

There are however other examples of platforms which leverage the technology but also put a strong focus on the values and community such as (French only).

The business model:

This is one of the key focus areas for me personally and the one which is least understood from what I’ve seen and heard in the last few months. As many of the readers of this blog may never have heard of “business model canvas” and other business jargon, I won’t elaborate on it too much.  The key point is that as the technology evolves and the values become more important as business drivers, we will need to adapt how we do business. It will impact how we market, who we communicate, how we source money, resources etc… and how we measure success.

My definition:

The “collaborative economy” is about putting relationship and responsibility (and values generally) at the heart of economic activity by leveraging the advancements in technology and the changing needs to people (the desire to collaborate, create positive impact  etc…).

As I said in previous blogs, this is a  journey for me so I reserve the right to come back and revisit this definition at any time….


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