The ‘sharing economy’ is a term that has been rising in prominence over recent years, one of many terms in an emerging new economics. This new book is a celebration of the sharing economy, and there are three things that make it particularly impressive.
First, it focuses specifically on the people. Discussion around sharing is often dominated by technology and internet platforms, but ultimately sharing is all about people and relationships. It’s an instinctive human activity that can be either nurtured or discouraged, and nothing fosters it like knowing that other people are sharing too – I will if you will.
Secondly, it’s visual. Generation Share is basically a coffee table book. It’s full of wonderful photographs that land this abstract idea of a sharing economy in real situations, contexts and needs. Sharing is personalised, and we see the faces and hands of the people involved, in the places that they live and work. It’s a portrait of a movement, and what a diverse and vibrant portrait it is – a real credit to Sophie Sheinwald’s photography.
Third, the book is written by Benita Matofska, but she steps aside and lets people tell their story in their own words. This is wise and generous, and of course makes the book a living demonstration of sharing. Everyone gets a voice here, and the book is packed with inspiring but ordinary people explaining their motivations for doing what they do. There’s a grandmother who cooks for strangers in her home restaurant, a Detroit urban gardener, a group of retired women who live together in a co-housing unit, a woman who runs a library of children’s books with minority ethnic characters. Matofska lets each group or individual speak for themselves, and their passion for what they do comes across well.
I enjoyed the global perspective of the book too. Being an English speaker, I tend to hear most about sharing projects in Britain and the USA. Generation Share is full of sharing projects we hear less about, from more traditional forms such as Gurdwaras or kibbutzes, through more familiar libraries or bike schemes, to unusual or niche sharing initiatives such as a breast milk bank for pre-natal babies. One of my favourites was also one of the simplest – a network of people in the Netherlands who put benches outside their homes to encourage people to “think of the pavement as a shared living room.”
The book surveys the sharing landscape by age, looking at engagement across generations. It asks how much sharing is cultural, or gendered. It looks at geographical spread. Some of them most interesting sections look at sharing at times of stress, in Greece after the financial collapse or in contested areas of Palestine.
At the beginning, the book defines the sharing economy as “a system to live by, where we care for people and planet and share available resources however we can.” But it’s on the ground among communities that we see what that really means, and Generation Share is a beautiful overview.
Since it would be difficult to review the book in words alone, this is would be a good place to drop in an animation:
- Fittingly, the book was originally funded on Kickstarter.
- Generation Share is published by Policy Press.