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Should the Government of BC revise their view of the sharing economy?

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We’ve been writing a lot about the “sharing economy” lately – mostly about the shifting definitions at play. But it seems that the governing party in British Columbia is thinking about supporting Uber and AirBNB as prime examples of the sharing economy – and we think that they need to revise their views if that’s where they’re ending up.

While we’re thrilled to see the BC Liberal Party supporting the idea of a different kind of economy, we believe that if the Government of BC is really interested in the sharing economy, they shouldn’t be boosting Uber. Instead, they should be supporting social impact organizations that have grown up in BC.

Last week, Lisa Johnson of the CBC posted an interesting article about an ad many of us have probably seen on Facebook lately. The ad, included below, asks “British Columbians” if it’s “time to welcome Uber, AirBnB, Lyft, and the rest of the sharing economy.” As Johnson notes, clicking through the ad takes you to the BC Liberal Party’s website where you’re given a poll with the options “yes” and “not sure,” (not no), and a chance to give your contact info and postal code.sharing-economy-box

There’s a number of problems with this. One, it’s just contact data grabbing from a political party. Secondly, and more importantly, it reflects a really short-sighted view of the sharing economy.

We’re proud to call Vancouver our home base – and we’re particularly proud because there’s so much innovation going on in terms of social impact organizations and businesses. We’ve got amazing co-ops that we call our neighbours, vibrant social impact organizations growing, and alternatives in many areas where people can easily choose to purchase goods or services from a social impact business instead of a more traditional one.

And the Government of BC has been a key supporter of these organizations in the past. They created a Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation to focus government resources on finding alternatives and fostering development. They created a new corporate form called “community contribution company” to legislate a business form that must, by law, contribute back to community.

This is why it’s so disappointing to see the government party pitching Uber and AirBnB as organizations that they should potentially be supporting. So many of the social impact organizations that are developed and grown in BC could use assistance and support from government – but instead, they’re forced to try to go it on their own, deal with regulations that don’t match their way of doing businesses, and find capital support in a market that doesn’t want to support social impact all the time.

Perhaps the Government of BC needs to do some reading on what the sharing economy actually is – remember, in most cases, it’s just a reinvention of renting and not sharing – and change their definitions. We know the social impact economy in BC would be thrilled to see the government standing beside them in support.

About Kevin Harding

Kevin Harding is a principal of the Incipe Cooperative, and is a volunteer board member of the Art for Impact Society. He has worked in the nonprofit, public, and cooperative sector for some time, and has a passion for working with coops, nonprofits, and advocacy groups that want to make a better world. A coop developer, he strongly believes that cooperatives can build a better world.

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