What's Mine is Yours - The Rise of Collaborative Consumption (Book review)


Images via www.collaborativeconsumption.com

"Barter, Swap, or Pass on this Book." These are the first words you see on opening What's Mine is Yours - The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. Printed on the inner jacket of the book, in the style of a library lending card, this invitation to share your literary possession gives an instant flavour of what this book is all about. The lending card graphic might look old school, but the digital nature of contemporary collaboration is made immediately clear by the option to create an online code to track your copy of the book as it embarks on its travels after you're done with it.Old Fashioned Values with Contemporary Technology
This almost old fashioned sensibility of lending and sharing combined with the power of today's online networking technologies is really the essence of what Collaborative Consumption is all about.

Appropriately, of course, What's Mine Is Yours is a whole lot more than just a book about sharing resources to share with others, the wider project is in itself an ongoing collaboration between the book's authors, Roo Rogers, founder of OzoLab, and former director of the Clinton Foundation, Rachel Botsman.

To support the book there is the Collaborative Consumption website which invites everyone to take part in the movement that is building around this subject. And for those short on time and attention spans there is even a jazzy infographic animation to illustrate the book in two and a half quick minutes, see below.


Unsustainable Consumption
It must be said though, while the digital side of things keeps the project lively, entertaining, interactive and, crucially, growing, the book itself is worth sitting down with for a good length of time. Divided into 3 parts, Context, Groundswell and Implications, it starts by putting our currently unsustainable consumption patterns into the murky context of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch - that "floating stew of 3.5 millions tons of garbage", as Rogers and Botsman put it.

Benefits of Conscious Collaboration
Moving from the negativity of our unconscious environmental destruction What's Mine is Yours moves speedily onto the positive impacts humans can have when they consciously and carefully work together to provide better lives for each other. In this regard the book is an excellent paean to the power of the people and their continual innovative uses of technology that enable them to cut out the middlemen and independently create socially and environmentally beneficial projects.

The book sits perfectly alongside two other books published this year on the transformative power of collaboration: John Grant's Co-opportunity and Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus. In a similar upbeat style to Grant and Shirky, Rogers and Botsman identify key examples and case studies of successful projects which are redefining the consumer landscape.


Business case studies
Many TreeHugger favourites make an appearance, product service systems such as ZipCar, Netflix and Bixi; redistribution markets such as Freecycle, eBay and SwapTree; and collaborative lifestyle projects such as Hub Culture, Zopa and SharedEarth, to mention just a few.

Positive behaviour change
However, Rogers and Botsman are keen to point out that the success of the highlighted Collaborative Consumption projects is not primarily in their 'do-gooding', but in the fact they are actually things people want and need. The section on 'Collaborative Lifestyles' focuses on the idea that behavioural change must be precipitated by self-interest in order to have a lasting effect.

"Real and meaningful progress in sustainability can be achieved only when both the consumer and the company are motivated to change their behaviour. Collaborative Consumption has the benefit of being in the user's self interest, not emphasizing guilt or personal sacrifice. Plus, habit changes have to be easy and desirable for the average person, while creating value for business and society. And when new behaviour yields strong rewards, it is more likely to stick."

Better and more unique experiences
We like the way What's Mine Is Yours looks through the psychological lens of human self-interest and creativity as the motivation to create more shared systems and services, rather than the all too optimistic 'out of the kindness of our hearts' lens or the too dreary 'guilt and sacrifice' lens.

A great example of this is Rachel Botsman's choice to use the AirBnB service to stay in the spare rooms of people's apartments on her book tour, because it offers value for money, a unique experience, and the chance to meet interesting people with local knowledge. All in all it's just a much more fun experience than an expensive and anonymous hotel room.

Collaborative Consumption Infographic Animation

What's Mine Is Yours - The Rise of Collaborative Consumption
Collaborative Consumption
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Tags: Bike Sharing | Car Sharing | Community Supported Agriculture | Consumerism | Economics