In Amsterdam, the sharing economy is there to stay. The growth in locally to globally operating sharing initiatives is remarkable. Since 2015, Amsterdam is the first Sharing City in Europe, and as such, the progressive leader in an expanding field. But let’s take a step back and have a look at ‘What exactly IS a Sharing City’?
Something is brewing in the Amsterdam kitchen
First and foremost, the Amsterdam city government, in collaboration with shareNL, is determined to support and launch a variety of sharing projects that support citizens in their daily lives, making the city friendlier and more liveable at the same time.
One of their main focuses is reducing traffic density in the inner city by looking at solutions and collaborations within the field of mobility, but also connecting the traditional and new economy actors in the field of logistics by combining their tasks and therefore relieving the city of excess traffic. Several pilot projects are being organized and the outcomes monitored.*
Moreover, the Amsterdam administration wants to lead by example and is also looking into how they can do more with their own existing, and unused capacity themselves - space, goods, vehicles, etc. - through experimenting with sharing platforms in order to share internally and in between departments and possibly also giving access to public organizations.
Although some of these sharing projects might seem very promising and a recipe for a happy city life, some people still fear the dish might leave a bitter taste. One of the sharing economy’s much and rightly discussed challenges is the inclusiveness of it. Although the sharing economy gospel proclaims to be accessible for all, in reality most platforms still struggle today to reach further than the millennials - or upper-class, white, tech-savvy, people in their twenties and thirties.
Yet, there lies a huge opportunity for our society ahead, and Amsterdam is exploring how government involvement can prove the sharing economy can work as an including factor rather than an excluding one. The city is therefore actively promoting the use of the peer-to-peer platforms amongst those who will benefit even more by having access to the resources available.
This way Amsterdam is taking the sharing economy to the next level through focusing on two target populations, namely, lower income families and elderly, who are normally difficult to reach by sharing economy platforms. Amsterdam is exploring to bridge this gap through connecting inhabitants with a city pass* to sharing city platforms, such as Peerby and Thuisafgehaald (meal sharing). Thus, tech-innovations, or platforms aren't exclusive on their own, it’s what you do with them, and how you implement them in the systems currently in place. There is an important role here for local governments to play, and instead of running behind the new tech-innovation happening around us, Amsterdam has found a way to steer the sharing economy in order to tackle some of its urban challenges.
* A city pass allows citizens with a low income to participate in society by reducing costs for cultural activities, public transport and providing special offers. read more about the city pass here.
So what is the secret ingredient?
Some of the following factors have been decisive in the case of Amsterdam: a high willingness to share (84%) amongst the inhabitants, the access to technology, an intrinsic entrepreneurial mind-set, and a high-density population. This mix of ingredients have contributed to the development of a flourishing ecosystem for sharing start-ups enabling them to rise and grow.*
However, when looking at Sharing City as a concept to jump to other cities, there is not one-size-fits-all solution, or not one secret ingredient that applies to all cities and their different local contexts, but one that always needs to be in the dough mix for a thriving Sharing City is collaboration with the different actors that move within the urban ecosystem.
Luckily, collaboration is a concept that Amsterdam has a particularly positive stance in. Since July 2014, Amsterdam has designated a CTO (Ger Baron); and together with his team (CTO office) they focus on innovation and analysis of where challenges and opportunities for the city lie, connecting the different actors and creating room for experiments. This resulted in the Action Plan Sharing Economy published in March 2016, which they developed in collaboration with the different actors in the city as well as with shareNL.
By creating room for experiments, and working closely together with the sharing economy start-ups in the Amsterdam ecosystem and other city making actors, the city of Amsterdam embraces the new developments taking place and looks further than the very much talked about - and the by now sharing economy textbook example - Airbnb. By taking on an accessible, facilitating, and even initiating role, the local government has allowed the involvement of its citizens, organizations, knowledge institutions and start-ups in the city’s design processes. By creating an atmosphere of openness, creativity and ownership for co-designing the city, they have found ways to make better use of the unused capacity, unlocking a bunch of opportunities.
The affirmative attitude towards collaboration can lead to a successful recipe for a thriving sharing city, and develop a path for a more sustainable, and economically and socially resilient city.
Sharing the recipe
Although we can state that Amsterdam has been an example of what can be possible when taking on a positive attitude, and has also pioneered with the regulation for short term holiday rentals, or Airbnb; Amsterdam is not the only city turning these ingredients into a tasty stew: Nijmegen proclaimed itself „Deelstad“, Den Haag is eager to become the next sharing city, and so is Utrecht, initiating and supporting several sharing pilot projects.
At shareNL, we are further developing this movement on a local, national and international level. In order to bring sharing city initiatives together, engage all municipalities within the Netherlands and accelerate city-to-city learning, shareNL recently launched a National Sharing City platform.
Additionally, to continue working towards collaboration among sharing cities internationally, shareNL co-hosted sessions last week with several international city officials and sharing economy start-ups. We believe that when sharing is taken to the next level by committed governments, organizations and individuals, it can reach all parts of the population and multiply its positive impact on society, the environment, the economy and the people.
Ready for the next course?
Sharing cities are therefore disrupting cooking as we know it, but there are still plenty more spices to be added to make the recipe fully thrive; each city will need to find their own set of ingredients. What’s next? There is a strong need coming from the cities for a translocal and transnational collaboration as well as a platform for exchanging knowledge and experiences in order to connect, share, learn and tackle the challenges we are all facing together.
Therefore the Amsterdam administration, has brought together city officials from all over the world - Vienna, Kopenhagen, Milan, Paris, Kirklees, Seoul, New York - to co-design a global Sharing city2city learning approach, in collaboration with shareNL. The next Sharing City co-creating session will take place in Seoul this fall, after that it will be New York hosting the session in spring 2017. All of these developments are now coming together, and reinforce our mission at shareNL. We are currently building a Global Collaborative and Sharing Economy Research Library with several partners, and a Global Sharing City Lab, which we see as a way for Sharing Cities to join forces and co-create the future of our cities, and develop context-sensitive solutions and guidelines to make sure there is a taste for everybody!
shareNL & Sharing City co-creator
For more news on collaborative economy developments, you can subscribe to our newsletter: