What can you accomplish in five days? As it turns out, quite a lot!
In early April, the Urban Sharing team and a group of five Master's students descending on Berlin. Our goal: to embed, map, understand, investigate, probe, interview, experience, observe everything and anything relating to the sharing economy. So, over the course of five days, we conducted 20 interviews that ranged from sharing organisations, municipal agencies, NGOs, and professional associations.
Staying at an Airbnb in the Moabit neighbourhood in Berlin (thanks, Simon!), we dove right into the scene. Fittingly, our first interview was with Airbnb staff at their Berlin office. Those organisations we interviewed range from the multinational, commercial urban sharing organisations like Airbnb and Drivy to the grassroots, local sharing platforms like BikeSurf and Velogistics. Naturally, the divide in design and practices of the for-profit sharing organisations and the not-for-profit sharing platforms became evident quickly. A narrative emerged: there were tensions between large actors like Airbnb and car sharing platforms, municipal government, and citizens. Whether the narrative is built on any truth, this will be something to investigate in our upcoming cities. Furthermore, while innovative and noble, it will require further effort to understand those grassroots sharing platforms and their impact in the city context and to address questions about institutionalisation, upscaling, or diffusion.
As a team of international researchers and students, it isn't always easy to get the necessary contacts and experiences to conduct field work in new countries and cities. We spent months of preparing. Matthias Lehner, our resident German speaker, tracked down and designed a schedule, which sought to maximise our time and the breadth of stakeholders working in the sharing economy. However, stuff happens. It was the case where interviews were canceled and added last minute. As we move forward with our mobile research labs, we will need to remain flexible. However, in order to capitalise on our time in each of our remaining cities, we must address these challenges: the dynamics of a changing interview schedule, the exhausting pace of the mobile research lab, and the impact of language barriers in collecting and processing data.
So begins the tedious, yet exhilarating activity of data processing. We have collected rich data from each of our interviews, which needs to be transcribed, coded, and categorised. We have many team meetings scheduled in the May to discuss methodology, sustainability evaluations of carsharing and accommodation sharing, future research tasks, and our next mobile research lab in London!
In the meantime, check out some of the pictures from our mobile research lab in Berlin!