Yuliya Voytenko Palgan presented her research done in collaboration with Simo Sulkakoski and Oksana Mont at the 6th International Workshop on the Sharing Economy, which took place on June 28-29 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. She spoke about the Role of City Governments in the Sharing Economy. The abstract of her presentation can he found below. This research is also summarised in a new video series [INSERT A CROSS-LINK TO THE NEWS ENTRY], which will be released each week until the Sharing Cities Summit on 10-11 October in Lund and Malmö.
The sharing economy is on the rise in many countries, but the mechanisms for its institutionalisation and governance in cities are not well understood. What is evident is that city governments play an important role in shaping the landscape of the sharing economy by defining conditions for success or failure of individual sharing economy organisations (SEOs), and thereby influencing what types of SEOs emerge and get institutionalised and through which governance mechanisms. Some city governments choose to regulate or ban disruptive SEOs, while others choose to support certain SEOs, seeing them as having the potential to contribute to social and environmental sustainability in urban areas.
However, the roles and mechanisms of how city governments do and may engage with the sharing economy have not been empirically explored and systematically documented. At the same time, such knowledge could help the city governments embrace the rapidly developing sharing economy in the ways that are beneficial for them and their citizens. The paper addresses this gap by exploring the question: How do city governments engage with the sharing economy and what is their role in its institutionalisation?
The researchers employ the conceptual framework that identifies five governing mechanisms, through which city governments engage with the sharing economy: regulating, self-governing, providing, enabling and collaborating. These are further broken down into 12 distinct municipal roles. The analysis shows that these mechanisms and roles are not self-exclusive and may be exercised simultaneously by city governments towards certain SEOs or the sharing economy sector. The paper advances the framework by adding the spectrum of potential engagement to each role: from prohibiting, regulating, ignoring/staying neutral, to encouraging and supporting. This conceptual work is supported with empirical evidence from studying actors in the sharing economy in 6 citieswith a mixed-method approach, i.e. case studies, interviews, focus groups, and mobile research labs. The new framework highlights both positive and negative interactions between the city governments and SEOs rather than merely demonstrating how city governments support sharing.
Our data suggest that city governments are more likely to prohibit or regulate those SEOs that in their view exacerbate social urban sustainability challenges, e.g. housing crisis, congestion, and social exclusion. Most often these are large disruptive SEOs such as Uber, Airbnb or free floating bike and scooter sharing initiatives. Some city governments show neutrality towards sharing start-ups to indirectly support innovation and entrepreneurship. However, they rarely provide financial or infrastructural support to sharing businesses not to breach rules of free market competition. Sometimes though city governments find ways to nevertheless engage with sharing start-ups through pilot or experimentation projects. Finally, we observe that city governments encourage and support predominantly community-based and non-profit SEOs for social and environmental reasons.