Old fortress gate with light trails at downtown

Old fortress gate with light trails at downtown

The city of Seoul four years ago identified the sharing economy as a new alternative tool to reply to the main urban challenges, betting on it to face the fourth industrial revolution. The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) declared to become a Sharing City in 2012 and launched the “Sharing City, Seoul” project, focusing on building infrastructure. The creation of the “Sharing City Team” under the Social Innovation Bureau was one of the first crucial steps, and the division started to work to develop policies and institution for Sharing City, collaborating with local districts in Seoul, and closely working with the ShareHub Team. The latter, managed by Creative Commons Korea, was another very important structure fundamental in the development of the project and in the socialization of the topic among citizens.

During these four years a lot of progress has really been made to the point that the Mayor Park Won-soon was awarded the Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development[1]. Mayor Park was indeed the first promoter of the project and under his mandate the city has become a global leader in the sharing cities movement. On the Gothenburg Award websites we can read: “Under the leadership of Park Won Soon, Seoul has taken a global lead in developing a sharing city […]. As a pioneer in this area, Seoul has developed various forms of effective sharing by changing regulations, mobilizing the city’s underused resources and making information readily accessible. The city has also raised public awareness and supports companies and initiatives in the sharing of information and assets. Park Won Soon has been Mayor of Seoul since 2011 and is a prominent figure in the process of creating better opportunities for sharing resources and information”.

As it is mentioned in the recent e-book Seoul Draws a City Through Sharing, released by ShareHub in March, five key policies have been implemented:

  1. Sharing Promotion Ordinance – that defines sharing as “activities that create social, economic and environmental values by jointly using resources, such as space, goods, information, talent and experience”. It also became a kind of milestone for gu districts (gu refers to a borough or district within a city) and other local governments outside Seoul committed in the effort of pushing ahead with similar sharing city projects. The choice to adopt an ordinance underlines the importance of putting people at the center of the processes: it means that the project has been approved by the Seoul citizens and not imposed top-down by the Mayor or by the public institution.
  1. Support for Sharing Enterprises – SMG examines non-profit organizations, corporations, or enterprises that provide sharing services and designates them as sharing organization/enterprise if they meet a certain criteria, providing administrative and financial support. The SMG is working as connector to encourage better use of the services of the enterprises and more participation by citizens. In addition the SMG supports also future sharing entrepreneurs through the Sharing Economy Startup School and other similar programs.
  1. Improvement of Laws and Institutions – since the existing laws sometimes don’t contemplate the innovations brought by the sharing economy, SMG searched for regulations that would drag sharing companies down, examining areas like transportation, tourism, taxation, parking lots, food industry, insurance, and infrastructure.
  1. Autonomous Gu Incentive System – SMG used the “Autonomous Gu Incentive System” to promote the Sharing City. “The system is intended to encourage participation from Seoul’s 25 gu offices in the city’s sharing initiative. Gus are evaluated on their effectiveness in promoting designated projects, and they may get extra budget based on their scores. The gu incentive system serves as a way to draw voluntary participation from gu districts in the Sharing City Project” and the Seoul’s Sharing City Team underlines that this system favors the active engagement of the gus in the project.
  1. Opening of Public Facilities and Administrative Information – in order to increase citizen use of public space and buildings and reply at the growing demand from community groups for meeting and activity spaces. An example is the Community Building Project, a resident-led initiative, that aims to engage Seoul citizens in community-building project proposal, planning, implementation and follow-up management. Opening public facilities doesn’t require any budget thanks to the existing “Reservation for Public Service” website. In addition the SMG launched the “Open Data Plaza” and the “Information Communication Agora” to share and make public online expense reports, public data, and other data produced by city and district offices.

By date 77 sharing companies/organizations are included in the project (divided into space, goods, skills/experience/time and content sharing services) and the word from the Social Innovation Division of the SMG is that other five sharing companies have been newly designated. Most of them are doing sharing activities on their own, while others are working together with the SMG and/or gu district offices in Seoul on joint projects. It is the case of Urban Hybrid[2] that worked with Gwanak-gu office in order to select an abandoned space and turn it into a local community Centre, Sinrim Agit, and agreed on operating rules. Another example concerns the relation between Socar[3] and the SMG, the former received support directly from the SMG to secure parking lots (key element in car-sharing services) and the latter used Socar’s infrastructure to operate Nanum Car, the Seoul’s own car-sharing service [Nanum Car service is provided not only by Socar, but also by Green Car, Carssum, and HanCar]. Again we have Wisdom[4] that organized a knowledge-sharing event consisting of conference sessions and a networking party under the title of “Seoul meets sharing economy” (for a total of 15 sessions) to explain sharing economy and the fundamental philosophy behind Sharing City initiative to the citizens, and it also published a research paper related to it. Wisdome and SMG worked together in designing/organizing the program while SMG provides project funds. Lastly the Entrepreneurship center OEC[5] worked with SMG, the Mapo-gu district office and the Seongbu-gu district office running the “Sharing Economy Startup School” and the “Sharing Economy Academy” as education programs for would-be sharing economy activists in order to expand the base of the sharing economy in the city.

The SMG has pushed a lot in terms of dissemination, information and socialization of the phenomenon among citizens, through an incredible number of meetups, seminars, conference and campaigns in order to share examples, open discussion forums, and allow people to have an active experience of participation. These events were organized by ShareHub in collaboration with local and international sharing companies and organizations; all resulting materials are available on the ShareHub website so that more people can take advantage of them. In May, in order to know the level of sharing awareness among citizens, the SMG, in collaboration with the research agency Opinion Live, conducted a survey on a sample of 2,500 adults (+19) who reside in Seoul (100 adults from each autonomous gu district, considering sex and age distributions). The awareness rate was 49,3% meaning that one out of every two Seoulites have heard about the project. Men in their 20s and 30s, well-educated, high-income, white collar and residing in the center or southeast area of the city resulted more aware than others categories. In general, in terms of policy satisfaction the respondents were largely satisfied, especially for major projects such as Nanum Car, and they agreed on the effects of the policy in terms of benefits for household economy and environmental protection.

Knowing if people are enough informed and socialized about the phenomenon is not the only important aspect at this point; another key element is related to the impact that the project and the linked policies are having on the city. With this purpose the Bank ok Korea has recently established a sharing economy working group under the Economic Statistic Department, with the aim to estimate the size of the sharing economy and the weight on the GDP. The group is just at its beginning and it should start  with a complete agreement of what can be consider sharing economy and what’s not, changing if it is the case the Standard Industry Classifications. This is a global question mark, since for some experts the on-demand services cannot be considered sharing economy, while for others they are the core of the sharing economy itself.

An important opportunity of discussion, also about definitions and impacts, has been the Seoul Sharing Festival held at DDP – Dongdaemun Design Plaza, November 6th -7th, that gathered experts from all over the world to discuss the role that the sharing economy can play in the process of designing the future cities, its potential in becoming a driving force for urban development and a solution to urban problems and how to determine its impact. As reported by Neal Gorenflo of Shareable, in the opening ceremony Mayor Park signed the first joint declaration based on sharing economy with the mayors of other Korean cities to develop a network of sharing cities and work together. The “Joint Declaration on Sharing Urban Policy for Sustainable Urban Development” includes: expanding sharing of human and material resources and information; providing joint support for shared businesses and organizations; seeking city-level measures to improve related laws and systems; and strengthening cooperation with overseas city governments. The cities involved are SiHeung-Shi and JeonJu-Shi, as well as the Elementary Local Self Governments – gu – Gwangsan-Gu, Seodaemun-Gu, Seongdong-Gu, Seongbuk-Gu, EunPyung-Gu. As underlined by Doo-Won Cha, Researcher at the Korea Institute of S&T Planning and Evaluation and speaker at the Festival, there is still no Province or Metro City (Local Government) which pursue the sharing economy policy such as Kyunggi-Do or Busan, but the joint declaration represents an important step forward towards the creation of a network of sharing cities.

The idea to work in synergy with others cities or administrative levels is an important aspect in developing the sharing ecosystem that Mayor Park pursues. For this reason also ShareHub started to collaborate with other sharing portal web sites of the country, like the “Sharing Economy Information Center” of Busan, the “Sharing Gwangju” portal, the “Sharing Daejeon” website and the “Sharing Seongnam” portal.

The joint declaration and the efforts to connect cities, administrative levels and sharing structures reply to the will to create a synergic ecosystem based on sharing and give people new opportunities in terms of economic development, smart consumption, better environment and harmonious communities.

More information about the project “Sharing City, Seoul” and its steps of development can be found in different articles published by LabGov (here, here and here) and Shareable (here, here and here).

[1] The Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development is given each year to people or organisations for outstanding performance and achievements towards a sustainable future.

[2] Urban Hybrid is a community development company that is committed to invigorating local community through fair development. Urban Hybrid defines fair development as an alternative development that overcomes limitations of physical development. It is a sustainable development that creates new value by making use of existing resources in the community, give positive influence on interested parties in the community, and be flexible in responding to changes in the community. Urban Hybrid participated in and completed the social entrepreneurship nurturing program organised by Social entrepreneur support network (Sesnet), and thanks to that experience, it was given the opportunity to develop Sinrim Agit.

[3] Socar provides economic and eco-friendly car-sharing services. It is a social innovation enterprise that presents a flexible and reasonable alternative of using vehicles. It makes user convenience as a priority to promote a more reasonable consumer culture in using vehicles.

[4] Wisdome is a service that allow people to freely meet people’s stories like you read a “human book” from a “human library”. It provides a sharing platform that enables people to grow by sharing knowledge and experience and networking.

[5] Open Entrepreneur Center produces and offers educational programs for people who find entrepreneurial solutions and continue to create values in the fast-changing work environment in the 21st century. Each word in its name has its own meaning: “Open” means we are now living in the world of openness and collaboration; “Entrepreneur” means it’s an age of people who create values; and “Center” means the company hopes to get together with everyone.

Il progetto “Sharing City, Seoul” ha raggiunto il suo quarto anno di vita, celebrato durante il Seoul Sharing Festival del 6 e 7 Novembre 2016. Tra le novità e i passi avanti fatti anche la firma di una “Dichiarazione Congiunta sulla Sharing Economy” (Joint Declaration on Sharing Urban Policy for Sustainable Urban Development) a cui hanno preso parte diverse città e distretti di Seoul. Dalla creazione di un ecosistema di condivisione alla realizzazione di un network di sharing cities.