With a world around us transforming by the second, it is very unlikely we are able to predict the future our children will grow up in. To prepare for this uncertain reality, children should be handed not only the right tools and skills to be able to manoeuvre their way through - such as the use of tablets, 3D printing, coding, design thinking - , but they should also be equipped with the right 21st Century mindset.
Up until now we have prepared our youngsters in a linear direction, as a consequence of what the industrial labor market demanded from us. Nowadays, in the digital age, we are in the midst of a huge transformation where we’re moving towards a distributed network society. This asks for a different way of thinking. The first step is from linear to modular thinking - or what for example the Finnish have understood well by scrapping traditional “teaching by subject” in favor of “teaching by topic”. Another step further would be teaching children how they can connect the dots in this network society, and have them experience the dynamics and the power of platforms from an early age on.
Where ownership, distrust, safety, control, mass production, excesses and waste have marked the industrial age; the digital age will be about freedom, trust, openness, access to goods and services, and sharing ressources more efficiently and sustainably. The sharing economy leverages this new reality, and makes it - in theory - accessible for all to partake. So let's have a closer look to what is actually needed to take part in the sharing economy and how we can prepare the next generation for it:
A minimum of tech-skills is required when making online transactions. Luckily, that's not really a problem for kids who are natural digital talents, since they haven't known anything else. Whilst tablets, coding, 3D printing find their way into the classroom, exercises about how to make an online profile, and how to interact online should definitely be thought in school as well. Maybe schools could build their own sharing platform to practice and have sharing be part of their daily routine.
2. Awareness of the existence of idle capacity (tangible and intangible)
It's like putting on 'sharing' glasses, looking around you and suddenly all what is un(der)used and available for sharing lights up! Try it yourself; it's kinda magical to instead of this idea of scarcity, see all this abundance around you. And it's fun and playful to do with kids too.
3. Know-how of how to 'unlock' those un(der)used assets and ressources, and understand the 'art of sharing'
It's one thing to be able to see all what is un(der)used around you, yet we culturally have other thresholds that withhold us often as adults from sharing. We didn't grew up with this idea. We were taught about owning our own stuff - having that sense of control over it - and not using, lending, borrowing, let alone asking things from others outside of our inner circle of friends and family.
This is also reflected if you look at the statistics of sharing economy platforms; there is usually a major imbalance in supply and demand. People are very willing to help, or to share yet we don't 'dare to ask', or the unfamiliarity with this new phenomenon is still holding us back somehow. This is actually something our children might be able to teach us, since they are less culturally pre-programmed and more open to the world around them.
4. Trust amongst strangers
Or in the case of children, outside their family circle. This is connected to the previous point. Again, we are preset to mistrust people we don't know. With online verification tools, referrals and reviews trust can be 'programmed' and fostered amongst strangers. And hopefully in some future, we might create ourselves a new custom - one of trust - being used to interact and exchange with strangers. Something you can practice in a classroom, or between different groups in school to see how this works in real life.
5. Believing in the community as a whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
Once we are able to see and unlock the un(der)used capacity, having regained trust amongst our fellow humans and the system we live in, the realization of the power of the community as a whole will follow. Again something to practice in school for example with working on projects in an open-source environment for idea-building and execution.
So in the process of moving into the digital age the 'art of sharing' might come naturally in the next generations, yet today it should definitely be included it in the education of our children.
In Nijmegen (Netherlands) Juul Martin (Deelwinkel) has been experimenting with The Art of Sharing (“Deelkunde”). A workshop series for children between 9 - 11 years old, focusing on just these skills and themes. For example, having them draw the idle capacity, unused assets and resources, put them in a sharing box, and teach them how the kids can connect them in a creative way, and taking away this emotion we know as ‘shame’ when asking someone for help or anything else.
Currently shareNL is working together with Juul to further develop these workshop series, and promote them in different sharing cities within the Netherlands, and abroad. Firstly, Amsterdam and The Hague are exploring whether they can start piloting with these workshops in elementary schools, so stay tuned for updates!
Want to organize a workshop in your school?
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get back to you soon!
PS: We also offer workshops in the 'Art of Sharing' for professionals, companies and government officials! Never too old to learn ;)