The sharing economy’s popularity is increasing. The term, and organizations often associated with it, such as Airbnb and Uber, is featured daily in the media. However it is not always clear what does or doesn’t belong to the collaborative economy; and what the collaborative economy looks like from the ‘inside’. Therefore we have created this ecosystem.



The collaborative economy in the broad sense refers to “economic systems of decentralized networks and marketplaces that unlock the value of underused assets by matching needs and haves, in ways that bypass traditional institutions.” For instance, borrowing and renting private consumer goods through Peerby, bypassing traditional retailers; renting accommodations through Airbnb; bypassing the traditional hotel; requesting a ride through the Uber app, without the use of a traditional taxi company.


Similar to the traditional economy, we can classify the collaborative economy based on the different markets and trading forms. Currently the sharing economy platforms are active in ten different markets: goods, space, knowledge, energy, transportation, logistics, healthcare, food, money and services. Within these markets we distinguish various trading forms, such as buying, renting, lending, giving, exchanging and sharing.

Within the collaborative economy we distinguish two types of organizations: the most well-known is the peer-to-peer platform, or also referred to as the person-to-person marketplace. It enables its users to directly match supply and demand. For instance an app or a website where people can buy or borrow goods from others. The textbook example of the online peer-to-peer marketplaces in the Netherlands is Marktplaats.nl (comparable to Ebay), where millions of people sell goods to each other. The best know platform for borrowing goods in the Netherlands is Peerby. A variation to the peer-to-peer platform is the cooperative. Collaborative economy cooperations are characterized by small groups of people who work together to meet common needs. For instance, a group of self-employed people who establish a ‘Bread Fund’ to insure themselves against loss of income, due to the incapacity to work. Or neighbors investing together in solar energy.

The second type of organization is the peer-to-business-to-peer marketplace, or a marketplace where businesses act as intermediates between two people.

The trade of private goods still takes place, however the meeting between the peers doesn’t. For instance the company Iambnb that acts as a service-provider renting out apartments through Airbnb while people are on their holiday. Or ParkFlyRent, a company that rents out people’s cars to inbound travelers at different airports in Europe.


The private sector has been providing products to consumers for a long time. Many businesses still use traditional ways of trading. These are indicated in the ecosystem in the category business-to-consumer. However an increasing number of businesses are inspired by - and are implementing - the principles of the collaborative economy in their business strategies. They provide access to a product or service in a similar way as the collaborative economy does. Carmakers are now offering fleets of shared cars. Examples are BMW collaborating with Sixt DriveNow launching a carsharing service in multiple countries, and Daimler-Benz developing Car2Go. These companies consider their clients not as consumers, but as peers. By providing the vehicle at the time and place the client needs it, they can compete with the local offer of individuals of the peer-to-peer platforms. Companies that succeed with this approach, move towards the collaborative economy and are categorized in the ecosystem as business-to-peer.



  • Peer-to-peer | peer-to-business-to-peer | business-to-peer | business-to-consumer.


  • Renting | borrowing | lending | buying | giving | exchanging | swapping | sharing.


  • Goods | space | transportation | logistics | energy | money | food | healthcare | knowledge |



What is the difference between the collaborative and the traditional economy?

The collaborative economy is part of the traditional economy. Within the collaborative economy the products and services traded are private; or it may also refer to a group of people united in a cooperative. Outside the collaborative economy goods and services are being provided, but there it is the company or organization that owns them. In short, within the collaborative economy trade takes place between individuals. Outside the collaborative economy trade takes place between companies, among companies and individuals.

What about business-to-business? 

The private sector has been trading business-to-business for a long time. The efficient use of existing capacity has always been important to companies. The collaborative economy principles will enable them to maximize their existing capacity. There are an increasing number of business-to-business marketplaces that enable companies to trade products and services amongst each other. For instance, hospitals that rent out medical equipment to each other; or an industrial area where various companies rent out their overcapacity to each other.

How commercial are collaborative economy platforms?

It is a returning question in the societal debate, whether collaborative economy organizations facilitate the sharing of goods; often added with the statement that by sharing goods, there shouldn’t be financial transactions or profits for the platform organization. Business models within the collaborative economy vary considerably; from companies for profit - sometimes with shareholders - to social enterprises, enterprises who strive for societal profit as well as financial profit and organizations that share the profits with their own users and the planet. The social character often attributed to many of the collaborative economy platforms, doesn’t say anything about the way the enterprises are organized within the collaborative economy.

What's new about the collaborative economy? 

The collaborative economy has existed offline for ages. Today one can still find several flea and second hand markets and markets where goods are exchanged without a financial transaction taking place. In addition there are an increasing number of public bookcases and share boxes, where individuals freely share goods with each other. And people lend goods to neighbors, friends or family offline all the time. The big difference lies in the possibilities of the Internet. The age-old collaborative economy is making a exponential leap thanks to modern technology. Products and services can now be traded amongst individuals on an increasingly large scale. That’s because the collaborative economy platforms develop the digital means that make reciprocal trade as easy as possible; making it accessible for everyone with Internet connection. In addition, the platforms build trust between strangers, allowing transactions to take place outside one’s personal network.

How does the collaborative economy relate to eBay?

Ebay is a veteran within the collaborative economy; an early example of a platform where people sell goods to each other. A lot of the newer platforms facilitate renting instead of buying, but the peer-to-peer organizational form remains the same.  

Would you like to map the collaborative economy initiatives according to the Ecosystem in your city? Or do you have any questions?