With the advent of the sharing economy came the hope that new forms of organization would emerge that offer a more sustainable alternative to the current modes of production and consumption. The peer-to-peer sharing of underutilized assets such as apartments, cars, clothes, tools or food are expected to prevent the overconsumption of limited resources, enable entrepreneurship among individuals and strengthen social ties. Indeed, in many sectors, sharing economy platforms have grown impressively. But have the expectations of the advocates of the sharing economy been fulfilled?
Recently, we held the 8th International Workshop on the Sharing Economy (IWSE) in Vienna, Austria. This workshop provided a forum for critical reflections on the developments in the past and an outlook on the future of the sharing economy. The 8th IWSE followed earlier workshops in Utrecht (2015), Paris (2016), Winchester (2016), Lund (2017), Mannheim (2018), Utrecht (2019) and Barcelona (2021).
As local organizers we have set ourselves the goal to continue a certain tradition (low-threshold, openness for new participants, being inviting for early career scholars, providing a variety of perspectives on the phenomenon of the sharing economy) and yet also to go a step further.
The workshop had already been held seven times before - the last online due to the Covid pandemic - and after some discussions we decided to hold the workshop onsite in person. The reactions in the run-up were different - now after the two days and the great contributions of the around 60 participants, we are convinced that even after the Covid experience, there is a need for time and space for personal exchange and getting to know each other. Our goal was to create an "oasis" for scientific exchange and we think that many of the participants found this oasis.
This workshop started on Sunday with an experimental tour through a district in Vienna, in which a quarter of the participants took part. The next day, vice rector Nora Sikora-Wentenschuh welcomed the participants to BOKU. Her opening speech set the stage for the event, and it was further enhanced by a welcome address from Peter Wieser as a representative of the city of Vienna, which led us right into the topic. In his introductory remarks, he addressed the shift towards other distribution principles in metropolises such as Vienna, as well as how to deal with the now established platforms such as Uber or AirBnB.
These questions were then reflected in 14 parallel paper sessions. Thus, we have dealt with topics such as:
- Exploring the sharing economy in city contexts und unraveling sustainable mobility in cities
- Themed sessions: Unpacking the sharing economy in tourism
- Resisting norms in a digitally mediated world
- The platformization of home sharing
- Unpacking the sharing economy in tourism
- Themed session: Young Scholars Network on platform cooperatives
- Investigating governance and reliance in the sharing economy (1 + 2)
- Analyzing sharing business models and ecosystems (1 + 2)
- Reconsidering sharing taking a critical perspective
- Discussing smart and circular futures of sharing economy
- Reconsidering ownership in the sharing economy
- Exploring social impacts and sharing economy dynamics
These sessions were flanked by three impulses for which we chose different formats. In
In Impulse 1, two keynote speakers from academia, Elke Schüssler (Johannes Kepler University Linz) and Koen Frenken (University of Utrecht), provided insights into past and future developments in research on the sharing economy. Through an interactive format, there was also an intensive exchange with the participants on topics around institutionalization (especially by large platforms) and the future of alternative, cooperative forms of the sharing economy.
In Impulse 2, representatives of local and international Sharing Economy initiatives shared exciting insights from the field. The speakers - Cordula Fötsch (Gartenpolylog), Gildas LeGall (Mobility Agency Vienna), Stefan Waschmann (Elfride), Okan McAllister (kindby), and Sami Angsthelm (Digital Kiosk) - highlighted different facets of the Sharing Economy from Urban Gardening, Shared Mobility to Shared Goods.
Impulse 3 focused on the topic of food sharing. Monika Rut (ICLEI) and Theo Koch (Too Good To Go) highlighted the social and environmental problems of food waste and discussed the possibilities for reducing it based on sharing initiatives in the different stages of food supply chains.
In our final round on the second day, the following topics came up in particular:
- Exploring the potential of sharing economy platforms in rural areas to move beyond the dominant focus on for-profit, online, business-to-customer models in urban settings.
- Examining offline sharing practices and their implications in the sharing economy, shifting the attention from solely online platforms.
- Investigating the opportunities and challenges of business-to-business sharing economy platforms as an alternative research area.
- Investigating the potential of not-for-profit sharing economy initiatives and their impact on various stakeholders and communities.
- Exploring how knowledge and insights can be transferred and applied across different sharing economy contexts, both through initiatives and scholarly research.
- Investigating the role of regulation in shaping the sharing economy and exploring new regulatory approaches that balance innovation and consumer protection.
- Examining the phenomenon of co-optation in the sharing economy, studying how established companies integrate or appropriate sharing practices and the effects on the ecosystem.
- Emphasizing the ongoing importance of conducting impact assessments to understand the social, economic, and environmental effects of sharing economy initiatives.
- Investigating gender dynamics and inequalities within the sharing economy, exploring how gender shapes participation, opportunities, and outcomes.
- Exploring the unique challenges and opportunities of the sharing economy in the Global South, considering cultural, socioeconomic, and infrastructural factors in these contexts.
- By considering these research possibilities, we can advance our understanding of the sharing economy and its diverse impacts, foster innovation, and contribute to the development of more inclusive and sustainable sharing practices.
- Advancing theory about the sharing economy by including institutional theory, feminist studies, labor studies, or ecosystem.
These questions indicate that there are still many fields here in which we can and should continue the discussions.
There will be another opportunity at a continuation of this series. Vadim Grinevich has announced that the University of Bradford, School of Management will host the 9th edition of the Workshop on the Sharing Economy. As soon as there is more information (especially about the date and the leading theme) we will share via the website: iwse.boku.ac.at.
The conference chairs:
- Christian Garaus, Institute of Marketing and Innovation, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria (christian.garaus(at)boku.ac.at)
- Oksana Mont, International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics at Lund University, Sweden (oksana.mont(at)iiiee.lu.se)
- Angelika Schmidt, Institute for Change Management and Management Development, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria (angelika.schmidt(at)wu.ac.at)
- Yuliya Voytenko Palgan, International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund University, Sweden (firstname.lastname@example.org)