Four Degrees of Sharing

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Janelle Orsi:

"I’ve discovered that as we progress into higher and higher degrees of sharing, the time and resources needed are greater. At the same time, we get much more use and value out of each shared object, and we meet the needs of a much larger group of people. As a result, the benefits of the whole are increasingly greater than the sum of its parts. Here is a closer look at other kinds of sharing that can happen at each level.

Sharing to the First Degree:

Requires Cooperation + Minimal Planning

At the most basic level, sharing arrangements require little planning, time, or money. They can start or stop almost any time, sometimes quite spontaneously. Take carpooling to work, for example--that’s something you can start doing tomorrow with one other person. Many of us already do share at this level. And as sharing increasingly becomes the societal norm, we will all probably share more in these ways:

   * Potlucks or meal exchanges with neighbors or co-workers
   * Borrowing and lending goods
   * Babysitting exchange
   * Dog walking exchange
   * Harvesting and sharing fruit from neighborhood trees
   * Sharing computer code or content

Sharing to the Second Degree:

Requires Cooperation + More Extensive Planning

Compared to sharing at the first degree, these sharing arrangements generally involve a larger number of people and/or sharing things with more value. They entail a higher degree of cooperation, more planning, a greater investment of time or money, a certain amount of administrative detail-work, and likely a written agreement among sharers. Sharing ownership of a car with a neighbor, for example, takes shared transportation to this second level. Other examples:

   * Sharing an in-home care provider for children, elders, or people with disabilities
   * Sharing rental housing or ownership of a single family home
   * Sharing yard space for food cultivation
   * Babysitting co-op with multiple families
   * Neighborhood tool lending “library” (which could be a shared shed where neighbors store their tools, or a list of tools each neighbor owns and is willing to lend)
   * Food-buying club
   * Neighborhood home repair group

Sharing to the Third Degree:

Requires Cooperation + Extensive Planning + Infrastructure

What’s next after carpooling and co-owning a car? How about a carsharing club? At the third degree of sharing, you might have ten neighbors sharing three cars. These neighbors will probably adopt systems for communicating, making decisions, managing money, keeping records, and so on. They will likely create a small non-profit or limited liability company (LLC) that will hold title and insurance to the cars. They’d probably adopt some technologies, like an online calendar for scheduling and numerical keypads that open and start the cars.

As a result of creating such infrastructure, third degree sharing arrangements often have an identity independent of their individual members. In other words, even as members come and go, and even when there is complete turnover, the sharing arrangement remains and becomes a lasting community institution. Here are some examples:

   * Cohousing communities and housing cooperatives
   * Community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs
   * Cooperative groceries
   * Parent-run cooperative preschools
   * Offices, studios, commercial kitchens, and other workspaces shared among multiple entrepreneurs
   * Community-wide tool lending libraries
   * Cooperatives that facilitate sharing of resources and collective bargaining by businesses (such as an alpaca fiber cooperative that processes and sells fur from hundreds of small alpaca farms)

Sharing to the Fourth Degree:

Requires Cooperation + Extensive Planning + Infrastructure + Community-Wide Restructuring and Mobilization

Now we’re getting really ambitious: Picture a community where there are shared cars parked on every block. You reserve a car using your cell phone, punch in a code on the car door, get in, and go! Whether this is publicly or privately managed, launching such a program involves significant investment of time and resources and a rather complex system of administration. Taking sharing to the fourth degree can require getting government buy-in, mobilizing multiple players (legislators, investors, banks, developers, planners, etc.), or even restructuring our communities. While a shared car on every block is a dream yet to be realized, organizations like Zipcar (a business) and City Car Share (a nonprofit) are taking steps in the right direction. Other examples of fourth degree sharing include:

   * Dedication of public land to community gardening plots
   * Expansion of public library systems to include lending of tools, equipment, and other goods
   * City-wide bikesharing programs
   * Official designation of casual carpooling parking lots and pick-up spots
   * Planning of neighborhoods and design of housing to facilitate extensive common areas and community interaction
   * City-wide wifi programs"