The three critical ingredients of the “Collaborative Economy”

A series of highlights from Emerge 2015 by University of Oxford Students. 

By Sara Cocomazzi

AirBnB, BlaBlaCar, Taskrabbit. Do any of those names sound familiar? I’m talking about new ways of sharing, consuming and owning our possessions. As resources become increasingly limited, we are required to optimise consumption if we want to be sustainable in the long run. The main question is how to create value from existing assets? The Collaborative Economy is the answer.

AirBnB is a peer-to-peer accommodation marketplace, BlaBlaCar is a ride-sharing network and Taskrabbit is a network of trusted people in your community to outsource household errands and skilled tasks. Those are some of the most successful examples of the Collaborative Economy.

Rachel Botsman – Global Expert on the Collaborative Economy spoke at Emerge 2015. During her Masterclass session on “The Collaborative Economy”, Rachel explained the three critical ingredients of the Collaborative Economy:

  1. Build critical mass: in order to do so, your service should be searchable and sizeable, be supplied in a creative way which provides a value-added experience to customers who access the network, be peer-led, and offer a limited number of options to ease the selection process.
  2. Build communities: to build a successful community it is important to deeply understand the needs of the different groups in your community; clearly define your core value so that your members will develop a strong sense of identification; and finally to empower your community so that members feel ownership and reward. AirBnB is an excellent example of belonging to a wider community of like-minded people.
  3. Build trust: there has been a paradigm shift in trust, moving from institutional to peers. Trust can be defined as the relationship with the unknown, it is to give your community credibility and sustainability in the long run. Trust can imply different meaning depending on the culture. Online ratings and reviews are very important in building trust within a community.

This is what Rachel explained during her Masterclass at Emerge 2015. As she said, “the Collaborative Economy is not a technological trend. It is a transformational lens on the future of value and trust.” She thinks there is a great potential of development for the Collaborative Economy in social sectors like health, food and learning. So, watch this space!


Storytelling: The Art and the Science

A series of highlights from Emerge 2015 by University of Oxford Students. 

By Sarfaraz Hussain

The session was introduced by John Simmons of Dark Angels – an independent writer, storyteller and consultant, and was run by Jake Harriman of Nuru International. Jake is a former marine and now runs Nuru International an organisation which aims to end extreme poverty by holistically empowering communities to achieve self-sufficiency & to inspire people to confront crisis.

Jake told about his life as a marine how this influenced a sense that the world’s problems would not be solved on the battlefield alone, another approach was required. Jake told the story of how he came to start Nuru International and how the organisations work supports communities living in extreme poverty. By doing so, he became a living example of how storytelling can be used as an effective tool to describe situations and involve the listener in your work.

In Jake’s words ‘Stories enable personal expression’ which allows the listener to experience what you are saying through many different forms. When telling a story you must know the message you wish to convey. For any organisation the company’s purpose is the fundamental point of any business, thus the centerpoint of the story. You must be clear but expressive and allow the listener to feel the passion you have for the message you are delivering.
You don’t need to be a storyteller – but you do need a story to tell: ‘think what it is’ pressed Jake. We all have a story to tell, but we need to know what that story is. The same story or situation could have a different meaning or focus. You have to be able to pick out the points you wish to express to convince the audience in what you wish to tell them. Once this is honed, you can shed light and emphasise the strongest parts of a story. For instance, your career journey might have taken a while, but if you summarise it and focus on the key and interesting parts it can engage the audience and have a stronger impact on their thoughts then a story which is of great length and touches on key points without emphasis. The key is to keep the audience engaged and focused on the key message you wish to deliver.


Opportunity for Inspiration, Reflection and Learning

Pamela Hartigan, Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship reflects on Emerge 2015. 

On November 7-8th, the Skoll Centre held the seventh annual Emerge conference, an event that started in 2009 with around 100 participants and today has become one of the leading gatherings of approximately 700 aspiring entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in Europe, increasingly attracting participants of all ages from around the world.  As one of the UK’s leaders in entrepreneurship wrote, “I can say without hesitation that Emerge has by far the best energy and programming of all the numerous conferences in the sector”.

While the majority of participants at Emerge are what we call “Millennials”, a growing number of seasoned business leaders are among the participants.  This reflects a general growing concern with the state of the world in general – from poverty and continued human rights abuses to environmental deterioration and climate change. Such concerns are not felt only by young people but by an increasing cross-section of corporate executives who realise that social and environmental causes are too important to be sidelined.  People no longer want to separate how they make their money and how they find meaning in their lives – they seek to combine markets and human values.

And that is what Emerge is all about.  This year’s inspiring speakers included Sir Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project, now leading its adaptation as a result of demand from countries, most importantly China.  James Brett, founder of Plant for Peace, brought the audience to its feet on conclusion of his moving life story and his amazing achievements.  The closing speaker, Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for UNHCR, broke out of the usual “UN speak” to share her experience with men and women, risking their lives to flee their war-torn countries to seek a better life for their families.

But such plenaries are few at Emerge and are meant to inspire.  The format at Emerge is about conversations, engaging master classes and learning through hands-on workshops.  Participants hear from seasoned and renowned thought leaders in a wide variety topics about key issues and trends.  This year’s master class highlights included the Collaborative Economy given by Rachel Botsman, a recognized global thought leader in mapping and describing this fascinating and disruptive business model; Laughter vs Crying: Using Emotion to generate transformational social change delivered by the inspirational and provocative Jack Sim, founder and CEO of the WTO (the World Toilet Organization, that is); and Cracking the Code on Impact Investing, an ever-popular master class subject taught by Henry Gonzalez, Skoll Scholar alum and head of research at impact investing firm responsAbility, and Karen Wilson, a lead author on the subject at OPEC.

Conversations such as “The Big Me” explored how we might rethink our priorities and strive to build rich inner lives as well as rewarding careers; “The Circular Economy” inspired and engaged participants to rethink their relationship to goods and services. Workshops provided participants with hands-on opportunities in a variety of areas.  For example, one focused on understanding how 3D printing can be used to create new products, new services, even whole new businesses all of which can have a social impact directly or indirectly. Another workshop focused on human centred design and provided participants with an understanding of how design thinking can be applied to address social challenges.

Emerge is just one event in the year. Yet its underlying philosophy, orientation and methodologies permeate the Skoll Centre’s year long approach to engaging students in particular to develop an ‘entrepreneuring’ mindset, one which seeks to challenge their assumptions, expose them to new experiences, and stimulate them to delve deeply into one or more of the major and ever-changing challenges that we confront as a global community.