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Collaborative consumer networks

Looking into collaborative consumer networks and understanding how they challenge traditional models of commercial exchange.
You have heard of collaborative networks like Airbnb or Uber. Or maybe you have participated in couchsurfing or geocaching. They are different, but they’re all collaborations around a platform. Collaborative networks connect participants to access resources and share value. In collaborative networks, people can alternate between being consumers and producers. These are flexible roles. By alternating these roles, they can optimise the use of resources and create multiple types of value for themselves and for others. Some participants, for example, may desire the functional value. For instance, accessing the benefits of a riding Bla Bla car or a place to stay, an Airbnb or couchsurfing. Whilst others might prefer the social value of meeting new people and making new friends.
In addition to the social and functional value, there is also the value of gaining new knowledge. An example of this can be experienced through couchsurfing, where people host others and learn from the cultural knowledge of diverse guests. It is so cool that a host can experience different cultures at home without physically moving locations.
Another value people may also get from participating in the network is the pleasure of being with others. For example, in geocaching, many people collaborate to play a game. They consider it fun and they help others along the way. There are even emotional and identity-sharing values. The feeling of being connected emotionally with other like-minded people. Both in couchsurfing and also in time banks, people seek an emotional bonding and community-building. They enjoy identifying with the collaborative ethos in the network. In collaborative networks, commercial relations may also occur. But commercial relations are not the only form of exchange.
Some collaborative networks are based on rules of reciprocity and other modes of exchange, such as the barter and the gift-giving that we see in couchsurfing and geocaching.
Not all exchanges in the sharing economy require monetary payment in order to access goods and services.
Collaborative networks are autonomous groups of consumers that collaborate to create, circulate and exchange goods and services that provide value towards meeting individual goals, this concept is often referred to as collaborative consumption. To gain a better understanding of this concept, watch Rachel Botsman: the case for collaborative consumption.
This type of cashless economic system is often described as a barter economy, in which services and goods are traded at negotiated rates. Together individuals build on trust and cooperation to create value for their common benefit. While some may assume that collaborative consumer networks are recent developments, they are in fact ancient. Bartering preceded the formal exchange of ‘money’ and was the standard method of procuring goods and services that individuals could not obtain, or perform, themselves.
Timebanks represent a good example of collaborative consumer networks. Watch this video on how a community in Long Beach USA uses the concept of Time Exchange to create a collaborative network.
What do you think about the concept of ‘timebanks’? Would you consider joining a timebank?
Share your thoughts in the Comments area.

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Business Futures: the Sharing Economy

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