Idea #35: Become part of the Shareconomy!

by Van Bo Le-Mentzel

I got famous a few years ago with blueprints for so called Hartz IV Möbel, Bauhaus inspired furniture. I do not sell the construction plans. I give them away for free. Well, that’s not entirely true. I do expect something in return: a story. People pay me with openness. Giving and taking. Charging my Karma. I can’t buy myself an ice cream from this openness. But the compliments of so many people bring a smile to my face every time. Overwhelmed by the resonance: in the last two years, nearly ten thousand people have requested my plans. Many evenings, I receive up to eight hundred e-mails. Not only from Germany, but also from all over the world. What happened? Do people find my plans so amazing? DIY plans did already exist before my time. No, the truth is that in this project people see an alternative to the so highly praised market economy; to capitalism, which promised us all prosperity and has disappointed many. How can it be that so many companies have to cut jobs even when they are making record revenues? Why does a company actually constantly have to grow if it wants to remain competitive? At what point is a company full-grown? How has it happened that in countries such as Germany not enough families are being created and depression and burnout have become common complaints despite the high level of prosperity? Perhaps you have also asked these questions and fretted about your powerlessness.
The more I exchange ideas with the Crowd, the more I encounter like-minded people who think much the same as I do: people who have a desire for more warmth and equitableness, an economy that puts people’s happiness at its center.
A New Era of Pioneers
All of a sudden, I started coming across movements that have such similar names: Gemeinwohl Ökonomie (2010, Common Good Economy) is the title of a book by the Austrian dancer (!) and cofounder of Attac, Christian Felber; “Gift Economy” is what the economist and former Harvard professor David C. Korten calls his philosophy; and “Informal Economy” is also such a catchword. “Collaborative Consumption,” the philosophy of sharing that Rachel Botsman describes in a book, was even selected by the American TIME Magazine in 2011 as one of the most important ideas that will change the world.
I don’t know what year it will be when you read this here, but my clock shows 2014, and the last decade has been marked by crisis and upheaval: financial crisis, real-estate crisis, and the crisis in Greece, Arab Spring (which started with the rising of food prices), NSA-crisis, Bangladesh factories collapse and kill thousands of workers, who stitch our cheap shirts for Primark (Penny), C&A and kik. Bitcoins as an alternative currency has coming up. People are increasingly beginning to ask: What is actually happening with my money in the bank? What hourly wage does H&M pay the factory workers for one T-shirt? And the employees of the hardware store didn’t know which forest the wood comes from either. Nonetheless, things have not remained at the question stage. People have looked for and found their answers. They are: do-it-yourself, co-working, car sharing, crowd funding, couch surfing, Wikipedia, open source, and Creative Commons. The key concept is: sharing. Since the lead topic at the last CeBit Fair has been called “Shareconomy”, journalists have found a new buzz word to mark what the economic Zeitgeist is now.
Perhaps this, too, is only a hype that will once again pass, but I have the feeling that I am part of
something really big here. And I would like to share my experiences with you.
This text is based on the book “Hartz IV Moebel.com – build more – buy less”, which I published in 2012. Thanks to Regine Lin for helping me writing this.

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