Community-Based Access

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By Aurélien Acquier, Thibault Daudigeos, and Jonatan Pinkse:

" Community-based access – combines the promises of the access economy and the community-based economy. They afford greater access to underutilized resources and services at the community level and thus aim to fulfil the economic, social, and environmental promises. Initiatives that promote sharing practices in a well specified physical space such as makerspaces, hackerspaces, fablabs, and repair cafés fit this category (Fabbri, 2016; Kostakis et al., 2015). The association of these two cores is fruitful since community bonds solve some tensions associated with the access economy. Community bonds prevent the risk of moral hazard because proximity between members limits self-interested behaviour that could be harmful for the well-being of the community.

Nevertheless, community-based access initiatives also have limitations because they rely on a non-monetary and non-hierarchical coordination mechanism to grant all users access in an equitable manner. As the cases of Schor et al. (2016) show, users either struggle with the idea of letting go of monetary value altogether or they devise alternative currencies that fulfil the same function as money. Their case of a time bank showed that even though it is based on an ideology that all types of work are equally valuable, it became clear from the way that people used the time bank that some skills were still considered more valuable than others. Likewise, actual user behaviour of a non-profit makerspace showed that the ideal of egalitarian access to shared resources was not fully met, as users created new forms of distinction based on status in relation to creativity. Moreover, high-status users of the makerspace created an alternative currency by trading beer (Schor et al., 2016). Hence, community-based access struggles to fully rely on community bonds to govern the transactions that grant users access to the shared resources. As a result, not only does access remain limited to the boundaries of the community, which is limited by definition, but also unexpected social interactions within the community can prevent it from meeting the promise of overcoming moral hazard.

Finally, in navigating the tensions generated by the principles of the sharing economy, some initiatives position themselves at the intersection of all three cores: access, platform and community-based economy. They seem to build on the promise of each type of economy to balance the tensions created by each of them. Although a triple-core configuration appears ideal, it faces strong tensions in practice. Since none of the cores are free of tensions, this triple-core sharing-economy ideal is inherently contradictory. While a win-win of leveraging the promises of each core and cancelling out each other's tensions would be the ideal, as the discussion of the dual-core initiatives already suggests, it is more likely that attempts to address all three cores simultaneously leads to an escalation of tensions and unfulfilled promises (cf. Hahn et al., in press). Pursuing simultaneous promises of equitable access for everyone, environmental sustainability, post-bureaucracy, emancipation and high scalability is very challenging, and any attempt to achieve them all at once lays bare the paradoxical nature of the sharing economy." (