6th International Workshop on the Sharing Economy – 2019’s edition comes back to Utrecht.

After successful editions in Utrecht (2015), Paris (2016), Southampton (2016), Lund (2017) and Mannheim (2018), the International Workshop on the Sharing Economy comes back to Utrecht for its sixth edition.

The University of Utrecht has indeed held the meeting in June 28 and 29, thanks to the organization of Martijn Arets (Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development), Rense Corten (Dept. of Sociology), Joyce Delnoij (Dept. of Sociology) and Koen Frenken (Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development).

As every year, the International Workshop represents an important venue to bring together academics and other stakeholders to discuss the latest insights on the sharing economy and to see the advancement on researches of many colleagues.

This edition started with an opening public event at the TivoliVredenburg on June 27. The public event “Towards an Inclusive Platform Economy: the Future of Work” moderated by Martijn Arets, hosted a speech of Peter Baek, head of the British innovation think tank NESTA. He challenges researchers to spend less time analysing downsides of platforms, especially Uber and Airbnb, in order to focus instead on the opportunities to solve global challenges coming from the platforms and alternative financing models. He presented some Nesta UK’s activities, such as the ShareLab project that aims to grow evidence and understanding of how collaborative digital platforms can deliver social impact. He also talked of crowdfunding community investment and of matched crowdfunding as a way of getting ideas and projects off the ground, combining crowdfunding and institutional funding.

The second speaker of the public event was José van Dijck, professor in media and digital society at Utrecht University and co-author of the book ‘The Platform Society’. She prefers to talk of platform societies instead of sharing economy, arguing that we need to move away from market and consider more societies’ needs. In her speech she explained how platforms have entered the space of U.S. primary schools “disrupting” the public education system. Stressing the  importance of putting “public values first” she underlined that new technologies are reducing the privacy of children (that cannot speak for themselves and are not protected enough by the GDPR) as well as the autonomy of pupils and teachers. Platforms indeed promise personalized learning and more efficiency in schools, but there is no evidence on this, and investment in technology means less money to hire teachers.

The second part of the public event hosted practitioners and stakeholders presenting stories from practice. Sara Green Broderson introduced the Danish reputation platform Deemly which helps platform workers to transfer their reputation from one platform to another, preventing dependence on a single platform; she defined Deemly as “a platform of platforms” since it puts individual users back in control of ratings and reviews.

Nils Ahlsten from the Swedish Public Employment Service, presented the ongoing experimentation of JobTech, that through an open source infrastructure, API’s and open data for the creations of different job market applications, helps matching employers and job seekers, transforming online reputation into offline resume.

Last but not least, Ronald van den Hoff introduced his company, Seats2meet.com, that with over 150 locations worldwide has become an interactive breeding ground for entrepreneurship, inspiration, innovation, cross-linking and cross-pollination. Ronald is also author of the book Society 3.0 and founder of the Society 3.0 Foundation.

The public open event laid the foundations to start a rich and intense 2-days International workshop. June 28 at the University Hall, professor of Strategic Management at the Warwick Business School, Pinar Ozcan, kicked off officially the 2019 edition. With her speech “Intricacies of doing research on sharing platforms: Theory, methodology, and pitfalls”, she highlighted some of her findings on market entry strategies, growth challenges, and the role of local institutions and trade associations in the process. In particular she compared the entry strategies of Uber and Airbnb in UK, Netherland and Egypt, since by now we know how platforms enter the market and grow but less is known about how they move across institutional environments. In her findings she drew special attention to the transformative approach adopted by Uber (rushing to gain scale) versus the additive approach adopted by Airbnb (more cooperative with institutions). In her opinion, over time additive strategies may not be enough, but they get “a foot in the door”: once they are in, they work with regulators to address societal challenges.

The keynote speaker of the second day, June 29, was instead Timm Teubner,  professor of Trust in Digital Services in the Faculty of Economics and Management at TU Berlin. In his speech “Platforms, trust, and what may come” he discussed “platformization” that is impacting our individual behaviour and our understanding of public and private sphere as well of the electronic landscape in general. He also showed the economics of peer-to-peer markets and the influence of pricing.

The two inspiring morning lectures started two intense days of presentations divided in five parallel sessions that covered different topics: reputation, urban sharing, business model, legal issues, cooperation, mobility, institutions, trust, environmental impact, human resource management, coops, participation, individual behaviour, social impact and policy. The variety, as usual, was high and the level of researches as well. The presentations covered indeed a lot of research fields and specific topic, analysing and deepening the worker issues, the evolution of carsharing, the legal aspects of the sharing economy, the effect of seller reputation on a peer-to-peer marketplace, the evolution of the food delivery platforms, cities case studies, and so on. A complete list of presentation can be found here, while the abstracts here.  The edition has seen the participation of people from 23 countries, for a total of 75 presentations. It should be signaled that a #crowdfunding campaign was also used by a participant from #Brazil in order to afford her participation at the workshop and present her research on governance in sharing platforms.

The adding value of this international workshop is the multidisciplinary that it offers. Indeed it brings together scholars with a common interest on sharing economy/platform economy but with different backgrounds and approaches, making the venue rich in inputs and insights, and valuable for everyone in terms of exchanging ideas and views, discussing hypothesis and research questions, brainstorming with colleagues, networking for future partnerships

After two days of great, intensive and fruitful discussions about the sharing economy, the closing session, in the general excitement, revealed the next year location that will be Barcelona, hosted by the Open University of Catalunya. So, see you all there for updating about our researches. And stay tuned.