Book Review: “How to Make Money (and a whole lot more) by Sharing” by Claire Marshall

How to Make Money (and a whole lot more) by Sharing by Claire Marshall

This newly released ebook came out of Claire Marshall’s “Sharing experiment”, “One month in the sharing economy in London”, which I discussed earlier.  In her “experiment”, Marshall lived for a month entirely in “the sharing economy”. In her blog and ebook based on this experience, she examines sharing that works, sharing that doesn’t work, and now wants to help boot up and spread her own vision of the sharing economy.

I should say that I admire this work. It takes a certain “gonzo” courage and dedication to dive in and actually walk the walk this way, and at the same time to record and reflect on the experience.  Brava, Claire Marshall!

Her blog gives an anecdotal story of her adventures, and now the ebook captures a lot of what she learned, mainly focusing on pointers to a lot of “platforms” that implement variations on this there. This book explores a plethora of case studies of ways that you might share, and platforms that make sharing easy (mainly covering in the US, UK, and Australia).

The examples are organized into major categories, which she tags with five “S’s”:

  • Stuff
  • Space
  • Skills
  • Save
  • Share

The services here are not particularly new—almost all are incarnations of practices that have thrived in some form for centuries in local communities around the world. But now they have been adapted to Internet based technical infrastructure.

There are well-known, gigantic platforms, such as AirBnB and Uber. Marshall highlights smaller ones, with distinct missions and communities. Most of the platforms here are much more altruistic than the billion dollar giants.

I find it quite interesting to see the diversity of services that are all built on essentially the same technology and business model. A true “Cambrian explosion” in this ecological niche!.

I’ll note that 90% of the technology in these platforms is identical to the tech that runs ecommerce and electronic markets of all kinds. Only the interface is different between something like Amazon or eBay and something like ‘Pawshake’ or ‘Casserole Club’

As in the case of coworking spaces, Internet technology has enabled this activity, but does not determine how people will use it.

I’ll refer you to the ebook and Marshall’s web site for most of the details.  In the rest of the post, let’s look at what it all means.

What is “The Sharing Economy”?

Marshall admits that the term is vague and there are quite a few overlapping terms (e.g, “on demand”, “peers, inc”, and so on.)  Marshall’s own definition is, “The sharing economy through the use of technology is an efficient way of connecting supply with demand. It takes advantage of the idle capacity of resources…” (p. 9)

This kind of sharing is not exactly new (and some would say it is very, very old [2]), but Marshall sees that recently globalization, economic crisis, and climate worries have made many people want to reduce consumption and change the way we work. In the same historical moment, the Internet makes it possible to implement very simple ways to share and swap idle resources.  Voila!

This basic idea has played out in lots of ways, through hundreds of “platforms”, large and small. (See also Robin Chase on Peers Inc.  [1].) But how well does it work (or fail), and why?

For Marshall, walking the walk seems to have made a profound impression. It made her happy, and it changed her feelings about herself, others, money, and, of course, mere “stuff”.

The sharing economy can benefit more than just your wallet. My month in the sharing economy changed me. It has made me braver, kinder and more hopeful.” (p. 99)

She draws two interesting conclusions from here experience.

First, sharing is good for you, and makes you happy because you connect and build human communities.

So engaging with the sharing economy is good for your bank balance but even more than that you are making connections and building a community. The effect of having a strong community on your happiness and health has been proved the world over so rest assured the effort is worth it, not just good for your hip pocket but for your soul. “ (p. 88)

The sharing economy can benefit more than just your wallet. My month in the sharing economy changed me. It has made me braver, kinder and more hopeful.

Second, she finds that not using money makes everyone happier.

And this was the most startling thing I found in my month in the sharing economy. When money was taken out of the equation everyone was happier. Even more strange was the fact that in the end everyone felt like they were rewarded, not necessarily directly, but somehow the transaction or connection that they made had an ‘ambient value’.” (p.90)

To me the beauty of the sharing economy is that it offers us so much more than a simple economic equation because each interaction creates a bond between people.” (p.99)

This, by the way, would be one of the conclusions one might take away from Graeber (Debt: The First 5,000 Years [2]).

Sharing and helping each other without money works really well and makes us happy, Marshall asks, “But why?”

Her answer is, “my guess is that deep down underneath our cultural learnings; … as human beings we actually like to share.” (p. 90)

Well, duh! Everything we know about human history and evolution tells us that humans are cooperative, social animals. It’s what we are, its what we do.

The sharing economy, then, is basically stuff that people have always done, but now “there are just more tech savvy ways to do it.” (p. 94). If it makes people happy, then it also enables people to do similar “sharing” more and more.


 

  1. Chase, Robin, Peers, Inc.: How People and Platforms are Inventing the Collaborative Economy and Reinventing Capitalism, New York, PublicAffairs, 2015.
  2. Graeber, David, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, Brooklyn, 2011.
  3. Claire Marshall, How to Make Money (and a whole lot more) by Sharing. 2015. http://www.sharestories.net/

 

 

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