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Definition

collaborative consumption

Collaborative consumption is a new approach to consumer access of goods and services based on an interdependent peer-to-peer model.

The cultural shift in collaborative consumption is from a consumer capitalist economy based on active producers, sellers and providers on one side and passive consumers on the other. The collaborative model is one in which consumers are much more frequently producers or providers as well, albeit on a small scale, and individuals cooperate to serve the needs of a given community. The emphasis is on individual empowerment and the efficient use and distribution of resources rather than private ownership.

Elements of the collaborative model include bartering, sharing, gifting, lending and leasing or renting. Here are a few examples:

The sharing economy is a system based on the ability and perhaps the preference for individuals to rent or borrow goods rather than buy and own them. Examples include Uber, an app-based system that allows people to provide a driver service using their own cars, and Airbnb, which allows people to rent out their homes or rooms to travelers.

In a barter system, services and goods are traded at negotiated rates. Such a system requires a mutual coincidence of wants between traders. However, in a sufficiently large system, traders can be found to supply most wants.

In a gift economy, services or goods are given without an agreement as to a suitable payment or trade to be made in return. Although gifts may not be directly reciprocated, wide-scale participation may lead to a system in which people give according to their abilities and receive according to their needs.

See Rachel Botsman's Ted Talk, "The Case for Collaborative Consumption."

This was last updated in December 2015

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