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Sharing Cities: The Next Global Trend?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, November 12 2013

They always told us to share when we were kids, but can we as adults? (Flickr/platinumblondelife)

More and more people are starting to believe in the power of sharing and its ability to enact social change. At the end of September, the nonprofit news and activism site Shareable launched the Sharing Cities Network to support innovators and activists working to make cities around the world more sharing. In October, they hosted a two week long Map Jam in cities around the world, in which local members of the Sharing Cities Network mapped sharing resources. They set a goal of mapping 25 cities with 25 local teams, but in the end more than 55 different city teams participated.

The philosophy of sharing is at the core of the open source movement, bike share programs, and companies like Airbnb. A core idea is that when goods are shared, the value of those goods increases for everyone involved. For that reason, among others, the people at Shareable believe that through sharing and mutual contribution people can solve problems in traditional civil society.

In a blog post announcing the Sharing Cities Network, the Organizing Director of Shareable, Mira Luna, wrote:

Imagine a city where everyone’s needs are met because people make the personal choice to share. Where everyone can create meaningful livelihoods. Where fresh, local food is available to all. Where affordable housing and shared transportation are abundant. Where the poor are lifted up, the middle class is strengthened, and the rich are respected because they all work together for the common good.

Without a doubt, the team is striving for a hitherto unattainable ideal, but Luna is also realistic—and optimistic—about the state of things now, pointing out that:

While there’s no complete sharing city yet, we've found that every city has a much bigger foundation to build on than people think. There are cooperatives, community gardens, tool libraries, timebanks, bike kitchens, coworking and maker spaces, credit unions, farmers' markets, or their ilk nearly everywhere.

Shareable highlighted Paris and Austin as cities with remarkably strong sharing cultures already. The Arab Countries map shows an “emerging sharing economy,” with pins in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among others. There are not nearly as many pins in all those countries combined as in Austin alone, but it still shows that a trend is expanding into more parts of the world.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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