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How the Sharing Economy is Redefining the Marketplace and Our Sense of Community

Brian Chesky at the Aspen Ideas Festival
Jennifer Bradley and Brian Chesky at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Photo credit: The Aspen Institute

Last Sunday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Brian Chesky and Jennifer Bradley sat down to discuss Airbnb: How the Sharing Economy is Redefining the Marketplace and Our Sense of Community. Introduced by Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin, Chesky suggested that the growth of the sharing economy will drastically reshape our cities over the next 10 years, noting not only the need to protect our available resources, but the opportunity in sharing society’s assets. He also discussed the role that regulation could play, and how the community, government, and platform can all work together.

According to Chesky and Bradley, shared assets allow individuals to build micro-enterprises and micro-businesses through the commercialization of things they already own. In a time of difficult job prospects, Chesky suggests that we need to embrace a world where people can also be businesses.

Additionally, we need to better utilize our collective resources, says Chesky. For example, prior to the World Cup, Chesky and his team were approached by the mayors of various Brazilian cities facing a similar problem: countless tourists and soccer fans in search of accommodations, and not enough rooms to house them. They simply couldn’t afford to build massive hotels for this one-time event. Airbnb offered those cities a different solution and today, 1 in 5 out-of-town World Cup attendees are staying in Airbnb properties. By using existing living space available through members of the local community, Chesky believes that we’re making real progress toward more efficient capacity utilization, and also creating better organized and responsible cities.

Lastly, Chesky responded to criticisms around regulation, which led to a broader discussion about how the sharing economy promotes cross-sector partnerships. Given recent backlash against experiences with disruptive renters and the disturbance they cause to buildings, neighborhoods, and communities, Chesky agreed with the need to better regulate. But regulation, he advises, should first be at the building level, not at the city level. Each Airbnb city is fundamentally different from each other—what’s permissible in one community isn’t always in another.

“We have to trust the community to be like an immune system,” says Chesky. “Community is the first recourse, the platform or service is the second, and government should be the third. They should all work together.”

Check out the panel here and share your thoughts on the rise of the sharing economy in the comments below:

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