Policies for Shareable Cities 1: Preface and Introduction

Shareable’s groundbreaking “Policies for Shareable Cities” report has been out for a few months now, but we feel it’s worth revisiting, so we’ve decided to serialise it each Thursday for next month or so right here, on the P2P blog.

This report is the result of months of research by Shareable and the Sustainable Economies Law Center, and it’s designed as how-to guide for urban leaders and grassroots community members to apply sharing practices in areas such as food, housing, transport and labour. As they express, “The guide is meant to help cities develop more resilient, innovative, and democratic economies.”

You can download the whole report in PDF form through this link or, alternatively, you can enjoy it in smaller weekly chunks  here on the Foundation’s blog. While you’re at it, why not subscribe to Shareable’s weekly newsletter? Shareable features a wealth of content on the Commons and P2P oriented initiatives. I also appreciate that their coverage and tireless involvement in the Sharing Economy phenomenon is as critical as it is thorough, reflecting the often divergent voices in the movement.

For the 1st extract, we’ll reproduce the report’s Preface and Introduction. We’ll fully dive in next Thursday with the first chapter, “Shareable Transportation”. Enjoy!

We believe that fostering the growth of the sharing economy is the single most important thing that city governments can do to boost prosperity and resilience in times of economic crisis and climate change. This is a guide for urban policy makers and planners who want the best for their cities.


In 2009, we first wrote about shareable cities at Shareable, a leader of the global sharing movement:

Cities are where we gather, in part, to share basic infrastructure, to socialize, to satisfy our human instinct to congregate, to make culture together. The call for Shareable Cities simultaneously inspires us to imagine a transformed urban culture but also to notice the invisible ways we already share life all the time.

-Chris Carlsson, Shareable author

We believed then as we do now, that the sharing economy can democratize access to goods, services, and capital – in fact all the essentials that make for vibrant markets, commons, and neighborhoods. It’s an epoch shaping opportunity for sustainable urban development that can complement the legacy economy.  Resource sharing, peer production, and the free market can empower people to self-provision locally much of what they need to thrive.

Yet we’ve learned that current U.S. policies often block resource sharing and peer production. For example, in many cities, laws do not allow the sale of home-grown vegetables to neighbors, donation-based ridesharing services, or short-term room rentals. Even when legacy institutions are failing to serve, which is increasingly the case, citizens are not free to share with or produce for each other. New policies are needed to unlock the 21st Century power of cities as engines of freedom, innovation and shared prosperity.

In 2011, we partnered with the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) to publish a 15-part series on policies for shareable cities.  It was the first published exploration of the topic.  This primer is a culmination of that work.  As always, SELC did the bulk of the legal research and writing.  Shareable contributed editorial direction, project management, and funding.  Together we offer you a curated set of policy recommendations on four pocket-book issues and priorities of mayors everywhere – transportation, food, housing, and jobs.

In addition, this primer reflects input from dozens of leaders from the worlds of law, government, urban planning, business, and alternative economics. We believe the recommendations appeal to different political orientations and sectors of society. And while the primer focuses on what we know best – policies in U.S. cities – we believe that the examples are relevant to cities the world over.

As we welcomed diverse input to the primer, we welcome your involvement too:

Stoke the conversation.  Share the primer on social media with the hashtag #PFSC.  Join the conversation on Shareable here.  Add your observations and critiques.  Above all, advocate for the policies you believe will help your city.  You’ll join a growing number of people working to democratize urban economies around the world.  Please join our mailing lists here and here to connect to this community.


Neal Gorenflo, Co-founder, Shareable

Introduction: Cities and the Sharing Economy

Cities are built for sharing. It’s what makes cities engines of prosperity, innovation, and cultural exchange. Well connected cities have the unique capacity to raise per capita production and innovation while using dramatically less energy.  For this reason, cities may be our best hope for achieving widespread prosperity within the earth’s natural limits.

Today, new circumstances have created an unprecedented opportunity to amplify cities as platforms for sharing.  People are already acting on this opportunity. Driven by economic need and empowered by new technologies, they’re creating new, more resilient ways of providing food, jobs, housing, goods, and transportation for themselves and each other in cities.

This is the sharing economy. It is characterized by an explosion of practices such as carsharing, ridesharing, cooperatives, community farms, shared housing, shared workspaces, and a multitude of new micro-enterprises made possible by platforms that connect supply and demand at the peer-to-peer level.

This marks a significant departure from the ways that Americans have met their material needs over the last century. For example, instead of buying cars – and using valuable city space to park them– people are sharing cars, thereby reducing burdens on citizens, city infrastructure, and the environment. Instead of relying upon emergency rooms, preventative eldercare can be delivered through a peer-to-peer marketplace or a time dollar program.  Instead of using hotels when traveling, they are choosing to stay in the homes of private citizens through the use of peer accommodation markets.

The sharing economy has deep implications for how cities design urban spaces, create jobs, reduce crime, manage transportation, and provide for citizens. As such, the sharing economy also has deep implications for policy making. The sharing economy challenges core assumptions made in 20th century planning and regulatory frameworks – namely, that residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural activities should be physically separated from one other, and that each single family household operates as an independent economic unit. The sharing economy brings people and their work back together through sharing, gifting, bartering, and peer-to-peer buying and selling.  City governments can increasingly step into the role of facilitators of the sharing economy by designing infrastructure, services, incentives, and regulations that factor in the social exchanges of this game changing movement.

We believe that fostering the growth of the sharing economy is the single most important thing that city governments can do to boost prosperity and resilience in times of economic crisis and climate change. This is a guide for urban policy makers and planners who want the best for their cities.

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