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In July 2015, Nesta commissioned BOP to explore the nature and scale of the Sharing Economy within Sharing Cities. Building on the great work achieved by platforms like Shareable, and reflecting our view that organisations need to open out, this study explored sharing movements in ten cities. 


Differing in scale, geography, and in the extent to which they actively promoted themselves as ‘Sharing Cities’, these were: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Christchurch (NZ), Dallas, Delhi, Manchester, Melbourne, Porto Alegre and Seoul.


Within each city we explored six dimensions of the Sharing Economy: community engagement, environmental sustainability, business growth, regulation, promotion, as well as procurement and commissioning.


What we found


1. The Sharing Economy is growing.

There is clear evidence of growth in sharing activity across all six of our dimensions in each of the cities in our survey


2. The Sharing Economy is diverse and responds to different drivers.

The Sharing Economy, like the ‘real’ economy, results from a combination of top-down policy interventions and bottom-up grass roots independent movements. It works best when there are high levels of both bottom-up and top-down activity and these are well-coordinated. The influence of individual communities reflects the distinctive culture, socio-economic conditions and aspirations of cities and citizens across the world.


3. There are some important similarities between grassroots movements across the world.

Within the great variety of political, socio-economic and cultural motivations for engagement in sharing activity, the commitment to environmental sustainability – closely related to ideas of a ‘circular’ economy, and a shared ambition to create a fairer, less ecologically damaging distribution of wealth and natural resources - is a particularly important driver for the engagement of individuals and businesses within grassroots movements.


4. The Sharing Economy encompasses a range of business models.

Sharing Economy principles have been adopted by a diverse range of businesses, from social enterprises operating in a single locality to transnational venture capital-backed commercial platforms. Though these models differ substantially, they all adopt the Sharing Economy’s fundamental principle of connecting distributed networks of people and/or assets through use of internet technologies.


5. The regulatory approach has been mostly reactive.

Even those places which promote themselves as ‘Sharing Cities’ tend to develop regulation in response to issues as they emerge, rather than a result of a considered and evidence-based policy intervention that targets growth in the Sharing Economy. This can have unintended and negative consequences for individual businesses and for growth .


6. Procurement and commissioning of sharing initiatives by local government is the weakest dimension of Sharing City activity.

Even where cities actively promote the Sharing Economy, this has not necessarily resulted in a sustained effort to include sharing principles among criteria for local government procurement and commissioning.



Further reading



If you are interested in contributing to further work on Sharing Cities, please get in touch below.

Sharing Cities

Headlines from our international study on the changing role of sharing in cities

Mar 29, 2016

Green Cities helping climate change through culture and sustainability

Nov 4, 2021

How are major cities around the world responding to climate change through cultural policies and programmes?

The Green World Cities of Tomorrow: Culture and Sustainability

Paul Owens

Culture and the Climate Emergency

Apr 22, 2021

5 Priorities for World Cities in the post-covid recovery period

Culture and the Climate Emergency

Paul Owens

Culture and the Recovery: Levelling Up Culture?

Dec 4, 2020

Culture can play an important role in recovery and renewal across the UK, if the right local decision-making is put in place

Culture and the Recovery: Levelling Up Culture?

Callum Lee

Central London’s celebrated

Sep 23, 2020

This focused, coordinated set of measures can not only rescue the sector, but position it to lead the recovery

Central London’s celebrated cultural offer is in peril

Jonathan Todd

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #3

Aug 21, 2020

Three big questions as applications close for Arts Council England’s Cultural Recovery Fund

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #3

Paul Owens

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #2

Jul 30, 2020

The UK’s £1.57 billion recovery package: priorities for a New Deal

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #2

Paul Owens

COVID-19: Cities, Culture and the 3 ‘P’s: powers, partnerships, place

Jul 20, 2020

Cities are using their unique capabilities to lead recovery and renewal

COVID-19: Cities, Culture and the 3 ‘P’s: powers, partnerships, place

Paul Owens

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #1

Jul 7, 2020

Investing in recovery, planning for transformation

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #1

Paul Owens

COVID-19 is a triple blow to culture and the creative industries

Jun 30, 2020

Recovery and renewal will depend on how we address the three dimensions of the crisis

COVID-19 is a triple blow to culture and the creative industries

Paul Owens

Take planning and collaboration to whole a new level.

Jun 3, 2020

In the face of radical uncertainty leaders and policy-makers will have to take planning and collaboration to whole a new level

‘Plans are useless, planning is essential’

Paul Owens

Relief, Recovery and Renewal

May 13, 2020

Nobody knows what will happen next, but we have a good idea of the three necessary steps out of the crisis

Relief, Recovery and Renewal: navigating our way to a new kind of future

Paul Owens

The Golden Thread in the 2020s

Dec 20, 2019

A cause for optimism

Weaving the Golden Thread into the 2020s

Paul Owens

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By BOP Consulting

Jonathan Todd

Chief Economist

Jonathan is an economist with over a decade’s experience in impact assessment and evaluation, and high-level policy experience, particularly within the cultural and creative sectors.

Jonathan Todd - Chief Economist | BOP Consulting

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Jonathan Todd

Jonathan Todd

Chief Economist