The Sharing Economy essentially refers to sharing of resources, and allowing customers to use and gain access to goods without having ownership. This economy is based on the philosophy of helping out a community through the exchange of assets and goods that are not in use. So a sharing economy encourages the citizens to put their spare assets and goods like rooms, under-utilised cars, technological items, and furniture to rent. In this way they can be utilised by people who are in need of them and provide a means of earning money for people who are not in need of those items.
The sharing economy grew significantly after the financial crisis of 2008 as people realised that they could not be dependent upon any one medium to consume goods and services. Alternatives needed to be explored that would be able to survive economic crisis in the future. Hence the concept of the sharing economy emerged, which provided people with a more convenient and beneficial means of consuming goods and services.
The sharing economy did not only prove to be beneficial for people but to social enterprises. In a way, the sharing economy serves the same purpose as social enterprise in that it is using strategies and policies to maximise human development and welfare. The aim of social enterprise is to deal with social problems prevalent in the society and improve communities through business. These organisations operate to deliver a social impact rather than solely generate commercial profit. Similarly, that is what sharing economy can achieve. It encourages sharing of goods, time, skills and property. So these unwanted goods are being utilised by one person or another.
Many social enterprises in UK are based on the principle of sharing economy. For example Freecycle, a grassroots social enterprise where people donate unwanted goods with over 9 million (!!) members around the world. Another example is Trade School where people take classes in exchange of an item or teach a class in exchange of an item alternatively.
One of the most essential mediums which facilitates the growth of a sharing economy are online channels like websites. With the advancements in technology, many new websites have sprung up that allow people to exchange goods online without holding ownership. This has resulted in the emergence of a new generation of micro entrepreneurs and has made self-employment much easier compared to previous generations.
So how does this contribute to social enterprises? Firstly, it allows growth of social entrepreneurs and enterprises in the community. These exchanges of goods and services can be incorporated into the objectives of the social enterprise and directed towards having a greater social impact. Secondly, it allows for employment, particularly self employment opportunities for people allowing various means of earning money through online and offline channels.