The Sharing Economy
Explore how embracing a Sharing Economy can help organisations reduce their costs and develop new audiences and revenue streams. This article was originally written for Arts Professional.
The arts, like every other sector, is sitting on idle resources. Those resources are costing your organisation money. Instead, they could be generating new revenue streams or helping you involve new audiences.
The Sharing Economy is in its infancy, known most notably as a series of services and start-ups – like Airbnb – which enable peer-to-peer exchanges through technology. However, this is only the beginning; in its entirety and potential, the Sharing Economy puts sharing and collaboration at the heart of all aspects of social, environmental and economic life.
The Sharing Economy is an umbrella term that refers to a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human, physical and intellectual resources. It includes the shared creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organisations. It’s a hybrid economy that recognizes different forms of value exchange: social, economic and environmental. Rent, borrow, swap, exchange, collaborate, community, crowdsourcing; all of these terms refer to different types of sharing or accessing shared resources.
Ourscreen is a brilliant example of how sharing resources and creation with members of the public can build new audiences. Born out of Picturehouse cinemas, ourscreen now operates as its own individual platform. Cinemas offer specific time slots for people to create their own screenings. The audience chooses the film and promotes it. If enough people book tickets, it goes ahead.
The films are shown at times when the cinemas would otherwise be empty so the screenings generate income from unused space. They increase footfall and attract diverse audiences because they’re promoted beyond the cinemas’ usual network. They also increase engagement because people are given the power to shape their own experiences.
Audiences are no longer content with being passive observers. They want and expect to be part of the development and creation of events and experiences. Opening up your spaces and creative production to your audiences is key to building those relationships.
As well as spaces and equipment, arts organisations have skills and human resources that could be shared. Corporate businesses who are keen to be seen as innovative brands of the future are often keen to partner with organisations who can share creative approaches. They are also keen to be associated with creativity. Hallmark, for example, started running Maker Fairs in order to associate itself with a community of makers. Their partnership with Brit + Co is an example of a traditional brand participating and benefiting from the Sharing Economy. 90% of consumers want brands to share, yet only 40% are perceived as doing this well. The Sharing Economy is an opportunity for organisations to turn costs into revenues, while making more efficient use of resources and diversifying audiences.
If you need to generate revenue, think about who you could partner with beyond the sector and how they might benefit from the skills and resources that you have.
Embracing the Sharing Economy is not just about sharing what you have. It’s about thinking differently about how you can access what you need. The Sharing Economy is a hybrid economy. It encompasses swapping, exchanging, collective purchasing, collaborative consumption, shared ownership and many other aspects, as well as traditional monetary exchange.
The rapid increase in the number of co-working collaborative spaces is testament to the benefits of a Sharing Economy. Shared spaces enable individuals and start-ups to split the costs of an office and the tools and materials they need. By being in that space together, they also have access to each other’s skills and expertise. It’s a more sustainable model of working.
At the heart of the Sharing Economy is how we work with other people. We are no longer reliant on global corporations to access the products and services we need. Websites such as Airbnb and Etsy have enabled us to trade peer-to-peer in an affordable way, while creative collaborations allow us to swap skills, services and ideas without a monetary exchange. Next time you need something, think about how you can access it in a way that creates shared value.
Embracing the sharing economy
The opportunities for sharing are endless but these five key steps are a great place to start:
- Ask what resources you have that could be shared – it could be physical space, skills, knowledge or transportation. What do you have that could benefit others?
- Think about what you need and the different ways you might be able to access it. There are over 10,000 sharing economy services listed in our Share Guide covering everything from skills to places to stay.
- Think about who else might need what you need and how you could share space, equipment or training to reduce your costs.
- Consider who you could partner with outside the sector to create shared value. Your skills could help a corporate organisation develop creative approaches and open up a new revenue stream for your organisation.
- Be creative in how you communicate sharing with your audiences and visitors. Our Screen is a great example of how you can involve audiences, crowdsource ideas and turn empty space into new revenue.
You may already be hiring out spaces or sharing equipment but there will always be something else that you could share. Identify your idle resources and use them to involve audiences, generate new revenue streams, and develop a culture of sharing that will increase the resilience of your organisation.