By Clare Kandola
16th of August 2016
This week the mainstream media has been filled with coverage of the Deliveroo wages clash. In case you've missed it, this is where the food delivery company proposed new working terms and fees to drivers that would have resulted in the loss of an hourly payment in exchange for significantly increased per delivery payment. Accusations of Deliveroo returning to Victorian working conditions led to an apologetic management having to justify its on-going commitment to drivers and ultimately dropping the initiative in a very public manner.
Interest in the story reached 'Peak Share' yesterday when I awoke to Radio 4's coverage of the story then received a call from Channel 4 News wanting The People Who Share's take on the story, and asking whether Sharing could still deliver positives to those working in the sector or whether it had become a victim of a free market looking for the next big pitch to weary consumers. After reeling off a list of what the Sharing Economy offers its workers (flexibility to choose hours, control over work/like balance, freedom from poorly paid part-time employment, access to markets and interaction with people in a way that pre-internet business never could, true entrepreneurship, working outside of the mainstream capitalist organisations, finding value in under-utilised resource, even simply the joy of sharing....), it got me thinking about where the industry is right now.
This is not the only story about the dangers of the Sharing Economy to hit the media - we read about Air BnB stays from hell, hear how Uber is squeezing drivers and users alike - but the reality is that these stories are the to-be-expected growing pains of the successful few that have achieved phenomenal - and fast - growth in an industry that is expanding exponentially. An industry that is evolving, growing and becoming successfully, alternatively mainstream in a way that will necessitate structure, organisation and support networks to enable it to continue flourishing and maturing.
There is a school of thought that what the industry needs now is regulation, whilst others argue that this would stifle the very innovation, agility and accessibility that has spurred growth of the sector. Undoubtedly, the sector needs some parameters, checks and balances, to curb the inevitable excesses and mistakes that a rapidly growing industry will produce, a Shared Regulation if you like where the industry identifies and agrees limits and protection for those within it. There are further questions about when and how taxation applies to Sharing services, what workers rights apply to Sharing workers (when is self-employed self-employed?), even when a company is actually part of the Sharing Economy (and how do mainstream, corporate businesses interact with the Sharing Economy in a way that is genuinely Sharing and valuable to all).
Yet these aren't issues that have arisen this week, spontaneously and as a result of the mainstream media shining a light on a particular story. The industry has for some time been grappling with how to deal with the fact we operate within an undefined area of a larger society and economy that trades in a currency of certainty - insurance is based on likelihood of claims, mortgages are offered on permanent salary calculations, verification services based on historical financial activity, workers are protected on the basis of traditional employment contracts, drivers are licensed on the basis of known criminal activities. And here's the thing - by definition, activity within the Sharing Economy isn't certain, it isn't permanent and it isn't traditional, and so it needs new solutions to old problems, and new ways to define trust and reputation (take a look at the RSA's Towards A Fairer Sharing Economy
Luckily, the value and scale of the industry is becoming such that services are now appearing. Innovative, new options are emerging from the sector (TrustTech solutions such as Veridu and industry specific insurance from Kingsbridge are leading the way) but also the opportunity now exists for traditional service companies to take the sector seriously (high street mortgage providers are finally addressing the 30%-odd of the workforce earning on a self-employed basis (bringing its own questions about whether the industry would be better served by developing its own solutions and services, or whether traditional solutions should adapt their services to provide for a new way of doing business).
It is right, however, that these issues are arising now, just as the sector is exploding and reaching the masses, enabling us to address potential problems and come together as an industry to share our problems and share in finding solutions to them. It is a perfect example of how the Sharing Economy works - an exchange of ideas, sharers and share-ees establishing a value and solution for a resource gap.
TPWS helps people and companies discover the Sharing Economy and runs Global Sharing Week each June to raise awareness. We work with companies and individuals wanting to join the Sharing Revolution and acts as a resource for those operating in the Sharing Economy, a voice to help address such issues and needs, and to inform and support individuals and organisations operating in this exciting sector.
Clare Kandola is a consultant who provides strategic thinking, brand development and commercial guidance for organisations operating in the Sharing Economy. A contributor to The People Who Share, Clare is an advocate of the power of the Sharing Economy to improve our work, lives and communities.