How sharing economy initiates social impact to create a sustainable society
The winds of sharing economy are quietly entering the eastern world from the western countries. Since the Sharing Economy Association, Japan(SEAJ) was officially established in 2016, we began to study the cases abroad, and try to find good references for Japan's future development of sharing economy. Through research, we found out that Amsterdam has been declared as the first "Sharing City" in Europe and their story was spread by, among others, the independent knowledge and networking platform, shareNL. In order to gain a better understanding of the development in Amsterdam, SEAJ has actively been communicating with shareNL during the last year. Since SEAJ is also a private organization, their case is undoubtedly valuable for us to learn from.
1. Trip overview
This year, with the assistance of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Tokyo, eight members from SEAJ, sharing service platforms, and venture capital companies in Japan participated in this special sharing mission trip in the beginning of September. It was an intense learning and experiential 3 day trip co-created by shareNL, RVO, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Japan, the City of Amsterdam and the SEAJ. This trip aimed at governmental and business leaders in the Netherlands and Japan with the objective of gaining mutual understanding of the current opportunities and tasks of the sharing economy and strengthening the economic relationship. Therefore, the first time for these Japanese visitors to set foot on the Dutch territory for Amsterdam Sharing City Trip was ready to start.
2. Sharing Economy in Amsterdam
According to the survey from shareNL , there are more than 90% [T1] of people in Amsterdam who are willing to "share" with other people. Unlike traditional capitalist values where young people wanted to “own” the cars in the past, nowadays, the number of young people who want to buy cars in this city are declining. They prefer to share resources and create a sustainable social environment, and it seems to gradually become the main idea here. In Amsterdam, the concept of "sharing" is not new. For instance, the bike sharing system was invented in 1967 and has expanded to more than 1,100 cities in the world. In addition, the concept of car sharing has also been around for more than 50 years of the history. Base on this environment and atmosphere, shareNL collaborated with the City government Amsterdam to declare Amsterdam as the first Sharing City in Europe in 2015. In addition, the City of Amsterdam shows the world's first cooperation with Airbnb where the standard number of days of holiday rental should be less than 60 days.The city will also incorporate the sharing economy in the Citypass which is aimed at low-income and elderly citizens to enjoy a discount on sharing services.
In the Sharing Economy Ecosystem Amsterdam, shareNL distinguishes different fields of sharing economy into a beautiful flower, including goods, space, transportation, logistics, money, food, care, and knowledge. There are now about 100 peer to peer platforms incorporated into this ecosystem, and it keeps growing. The founders of shareNL also launched the Sharing Cities Alliance, an independent foundation, during the Sharing Cities Summit in New York this May. The Sharing Cities Alliance was launched as a global sharing cities network with the purpose of facilitating city-to-cty learning for working with opportunities and challenges that cities face with regard to the sharing economy.
3. The famous Dutch sharing platforms and my sharing experience
Most of the sharing platforms are startups and they have limited resources in the beginning. Therefore, they may need some help from the startup accelerator, Rockstart. This company helps many startups in the early stage through what they called “pizza money.” The fund range could be from €50~€25,000 to support sharing economy startups to survive and the startups become part of their accelerator program. One such platform is the items sharing platform, Peerby, which is one of the most successful examples in Amsterdam.
The most exciting part of this trip was to experience local sharing services in person! Our daily transportation was managed by the local ride-sharing platform, Abel. I chatted with the driver along the way and found out that Abel drivers are free to arrange working hours, the scale is growing fast, and they are enjoying this new ride-sharing work by communicating with different passengers. Except for ride-sharing platform, we also experienced the boat sharing platform, Barqo. You can see canals everywhere in this beautiful city. It is common for citizens to own a private boat, and sailors can join this network as well. This service creates the opportunities for sightseeing, and the whole city seems to look more charming from the canal side.
Also, meal sharing platforms is very popular in European countries. In Amsterdam, people can use AirDnD, which means Air Drink’n Dine, to eat out at local people's places. We visited Caro Kookt for our lunch. In Caro's place the kitchen and dining table were connected. Guests can watch her cook creative cuisine and interact with her directly. She said that more than 80% of the reservations in the weekends are foreigners visiting. Guests feel at home when they experience local culture, especially through eating a delicious meal with others. During the last day, we visited a co-working building, B Amsterdam. B. Amsterdam provides many different kinds of spaces for entrepreneurs to create bridges between each other. There are over 200 companies who have their offices here and it becomes a community for them to get access to the right spaces, toolset, knowledge and social environment to improve their business. Their design and architecture is very innovative and it transfers work into a new type of lifestyle.
4. What we can learn from Amsterdam
This trip was designed to be very dynamic, I like that we can do networking and interaction with a wide variety of people to listen to their true voice of running their own sharing business or creative ideas. I also remember there was a very special panel discussion with three entrepreneurs from Peerby, MyWheels, and seat2meet. Everyone seated next to them on the long table and just started to discuss the topic with beers. It made this discussion more interactive and there is no distance between speakers and audiences, which impressed me a lot.
I have been curious about why sharing economy is so prevalent in Europe or other western countries. In my imagination, I think the eastern world where “collectivism” is more important than “individualism” may be developing this idea more quickly, however, this fact is not the case. I think the most important reason is that sharing economy is not just a spontaneous personal behavior, but expands to the whole society including all types of stakeholders which may completely change the way of living under the mutual assistance mode. Apparently, Dutch people have been putting more emphasis on “sustainability” and “ecological environment” to create “social impact” instead of traditional capitalism-oriented thoughts. They believe sharing economy can improve social impact to balance social capital and traditional capital to create a more sustainable society. For example, Dutch people use Peerby to lend goods from their neighbors, and it seems very common to knock stranger’s doors directly here. People can take this opportunity to deepen the communication with strangers, which also indirectly becomes a catalyst to create social impact.
Another restaurant that we visited was called Instock, their idea is to avoid the waste of food. They pick up unsold products from supermarkets and use these as ingredients and then turn food surplus into delicious meals for guests to enjoy.
This philosophy of running the business has become their general consciousness. I believe this sustainability-oriented thinking will become the next trend in Japan or other eastern countries in the future. In addition, Dutch people are willing to embrace new ideas. As long as they think it is beneficial for social development, they will start from trial and error and face the challenges necessary to create innovation. I really appreciate to have this chance to visit this wonderful country, and hope this experience will be able to stir up different waves in Japan.
[T1]99.6% of non-participants indicate a willingness to share – according to the monitor
This article was written by Iris Wang form the Sharing Economy Association Japan (SEAJ)