Cities and communities have been built on the ideas of exchange of goods and knowledge. But what if we took this one step further and started building our cities on the idea of sharing? How would this impact our lives, including the way we live, work, play and experience the city and other people? How would our systems, regulations and bureaucracy cope with a more open city where even private property had more of a public benefit? And, how comfortable are we as citizens to open our homes, vehicles and other goods to our neighbours, friends, and those we have not met?
In the lead up to the New Cities Summit in Dallas in June 2014, we approached Molly Turner, Director of Public Policy and Civic Partnerships at Airbnb, to help us tackle our questions about the sharing city.
Meet the speakers at the New Cities Summit over here
Rashiq Fataar: Have our cities not always been places of sharing, and are we not just moving back towards that culture?
Molly Turner: Cities exist because it’s more efficient and productive for us to live together, collaborate and share resources. But for a while, we forgot what it means to live in a city and share with our neighbours. As the world urbanises, the emergence of the sharing economy is helping us remember how to live–together–in cities again.
RF: How has Airbnb defined sharing in its work and how is it helping to shape the future of the hospitality industry?
MT: Hospitality is all about sharing. Through Airbnb our hosts aren’t just sharing their homes, they’re also sharing their neighbourhoods, their perspectives and their lives. When guests travel with Airbnb, they are looking for unique and authentic experiences that allow them to live like a local.
Airbnb is also sharing the benefits of one of the world’s biggest industries–tourism–with more people and places than ever before. Tourism is an incredibly powerful economic driver, but not all tourism is created equal—tourist dollars spent at large chains rarely stay in the local economy. Airbnb travellers, on the other hand, not only put money directly in the pockets of local residents, they also distribute their economic impacts outside the tourist centre to small neighbourhood businesses.
RF: When we speak of a disruption due to a sharing culture, economy and industry, how has Airbnb experienced this?
MT: Sharing is not new. People have been sharing their homes with visitors since the beginning of time. However, today’s new technologies and social tools have enabled more people than ever before to gain access to these sharing opportunities.
RF: Have we really pushed the boundaries of sharing, and where are some of the new opportunities arising in this sharing economy?
MT: Right now we’re seeing people’s homes, cars, bicycles, and other belongings being shared. But, what might a city that’s designed for sharing look like? We’re seeing tendencies toward greater community participation and sharing throughout cities with DIY and tactical urbanism, pop-up shops and parklettes. The places we live–our houses, our streets and parks, our cities–take a long time to build. They can’t keep up with rapidly changing new lifestyles, so temporary and flexible design solutions based on sharing can help us adapt our physical spaces more quickly.
RF. Do you believe that a sharing economy and culture will play a key role in making cities more sustainable?
MT: As more and more people move into cities, we have an opportunity to make them better places to live, work and visit. Collaboration and sharing in their various forms will be essential to making the cities of the future not only sustainable, but liveable.
Molly Turner is the Director of Civics at Airbnb. As an advocate for the Airbnb community Molly handles government affairs for the company, which has a presence in over 35,000 cities worldwide. In this role she manages public-private partnerships with various municipal government agencies, non-profits, and tourism bureaus throughout the world. She also manages research initiatives, such as economic and housing impact studies, and joint studies with academic institutions. Before Airbnb, Molly consulted with governments on sustainable tourism development and conducted research with the UNESCO World Heritage Center. She currently serves on the boards of SPUR and Tumml. Molly holds a Master in Urban Planning from Harvard University and a BA from Dartmouth College.
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