On Wednesday morning, the 16th of November 2016, Urban Sharing team members Lucie Zvolska, Matthias Lehner, and Oksana Mont attended the breakfast seminar “Sharing is caring?” organised by Future Manager – for future tourism in Malmö, Sweden. The seminar introduced a diverse panel of experts and practitioners engaged in what is broadly known as ‘the sharing economy’. The panellists were Anna Wittgren (Business Area Manager for Leisure Travel for Malmö Tourism), Per Ljungwall (founder of the online platform Zkyon), Antti Vainio (Research Official from the Swedish Transport Workers’ Union), and our own Oksana Mont.

The discussion revolved around some of the pressing issues in the sharing economy, such as regulation, workers’ rights, the thin line between sharing initiatives and commercial endeavours, and potentials to influence consumption patterns and volumes. While the panellists saw a huge potential of sharing platforms to contribute to innovation, sustainable consumption and decentralised production, they were also cautious about the negative impacts larger platforms could have on local communities. They proposed “smart regulation,” which supports innovation but also creates a level-playing field between sharing businesses and the incumbents.

Further discussion centred on the sustainability implications of scaling up sharing businesses, noting that large sharing platforms come with many drawbacks and emphasising the need to institutionalise and multiply sharing practices in general, rather than scaling up individual platforms.

The workshop also showcased the very broad spectrum of ideas and initiatives the sharing economy unites. As currently used in popular literature and day-to-day communication, the term ‘sharing economy’ can bring together quite contrary views, from an idealisation of “old” ways of sharing (e.g. among neighbours) to hyper-neo-liberal ideas about a society of self-employed and multi-tasking professionals.