Before the launch

A look at the sharing city phenomenon, from December 2014

Why Amsterdam sharing city?

The purpose of Amsterdam Sharing City is to seize the opportunities that the sharing economy offers in the areas of sustainability, social cohesion and economy. And secondly to formulate answers to the challenges this rapidly growing phenomenon entails.

Amsterdam’s rich heritage and culture, its spirit of commerce, its innovative infrastructure, its live-ability and its creativity set it apart from other major European cities. These aspects, together with the fact that more than 84% of the ‘Amsterdammers’ are willing to share, make the city the ideal platform for the collaborative (or: sharing) economy (from now on referred to as the collaborative economy) to flourish on. Other observations of behavior in Amsterdam that would benefit from a proactive recognition and action plan for the collaborative economy are described in the research about the consumer potential of the collaborative consumption:

  • a willingness to share in the city of Amsterdam (84% of the Amsterdam citizens showed motivation to share);
  • an established digital infrastructure with more than 90% of the citizens with online access;
  • an environment that encourages sharing economy start-ups;
  • an atmosphere of promoting innovation;
  • entrepreneurial spirit and ambitious initiatives within circular- and sharing economy and sustainability;
  • and the potential of applying the Sharing City concept in Seoul to a European city.

Further explanations of why Amsterdam is a good fit to become a sharing city is described in the videos by the founders of shareNL, Pieter van de Glind and Harmen van Sprang, as follows:

- Seven reasons why Amsterdam will be a Sharing City

- Raadzaal - Amsterdam Sharing City

- Ouishare Fest 2015, Sharing Cities

The collaborative economy creates new opportunities. As described by the Action Plan that was agreed upon by the Mayor and Executive Board of the municipality of Amsterdam, opportunities include:

  • The consumer takes centre stage;
  • The consumer has easier and cheaper access to services and goods;
  • Ease of use for the consumer (and provider);
  • Possibility to acquire new, additional means of livelihood;
  • Casual participation (e.g. low threshold to becoming an entrepreneur);
  • More sustainable and efficient use of scarce goods;
  • Competition for existing monopolies/power holders;
  • Promotes (an acceleration of) innovations in terms of

products and services;

  • Attracting creative and knowledge economy actors;
  • Fosters social engagement;

Improves social cohesion (and sense of safety);

  • Opportunities for new public-private partnerships;
  • Growth in local economic investments

The beneficial environment of Amsterdam is also described by Iamsterdam in one of their articles. The article describes the city well in this paragraph:

‘Amsterdam’s promise, diversity and wealth of opportunity make it an excellent choice for business, education, living and visiting. The city’s rich heritage and culture, its spirit of commerce, its innovative infrastructure, its live-ability and its creativity set it apart from other major European cities.’

The collaborative economy creates new opportunities, however, with opportunities come also challenges. As described by the Action Plan challenges include (quoted):

  • ‘The emergence of an unequal playing field, for instance for existing businesses that have had to meet specific conditions (permits, taxes);
  • Risk of power and/or monopoly positions;
  • The loss of a (social) safety net and job security;
  • The distinction between sharing and business operation (with a view to applying rules and regulations) is difficult to determine in advance;
  • How can state/municipal authorities monitor quality, safety and potential public nuisance, and how can they intervene;
  • Public nuisance, or the perception thereof;
  • Unrefined/one-sided representation (e.g. focus on an existing market or paying little attention to the customer’s perspective);
  • How the trend of the sharing economy (and hence the impact of various initiatives) will develop is hard to predict;
  • Income inequality: the income generated through the sharing economy goes to platforms and people who already own a lot;
  • Rebound effects: easier access to services and goods promotes more purchases, which may be detrimental to e.g. the environment.’

In conclusion the collaborative economy creates opportunities as well as challenges. Such challenges can either be ignored or resisted by the city, or embraced and addressed by the city. Through becoming a Sharing City, Amsterdam works towards cultivating the opportunities and taking a proactive role in addressing the challenges. Through addressing challenges and creating collaboration between all players in the field, the city can turn challenges into opportunities. Opportunities for the city are for example using scarce resources more efficiently and more sustainably, increasing social engagement and social cohesion and safety, and building trust and networks among people.