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Policies for a Shareable City

The city of Sana'a, Yemen, is a shared creation. Photo: Tyabji

Neal Gorenflo presents a very important 20-part project:

“The Policies for a Shareable City series will cover 20 policy areas to inspire discussion among citizens and city leaders. Through a partnership with Shareable, Janelle Orsi and the Sustainable Economies Law Center team have taken up the thread started by Lawrence Grodeska at SHARE San Francisco. They will cover food, transportation, housing, culture, governance, entrepreneurship, and more. At the bottom of this post is the series index which we’ll hyperlink as we publish each article. The hope is that each post prompts you to share ideas in comments and take action in your city. And please copy, remix, and share the policy proposals as you see fit.

Together the proposals represent the underpinnings of a larger vision in which the common wealth in cities is made accessible to all residents; where the free flow of resources among citizens is aided by law, the built environment, culture, nonprofits, government, and enterprise; and where citizens are free to co-create great lives for each other in a vivifying cooperative framework. That said, the series is far from comprehensive. We think it’s a cornerstone, one that we invite you to build on.

One a personal note, the series represents an evolution in my own thinking, one that offers meaningful context to the series. Shareable was founded on the idea that sharing is key to solving the triple crises of environment, economy, and social division. This is a big idea, but it needs grounding. The sharing of physical assets is place-based. And the place where sharing can most easily happen and have the most impact is in cities. We’ve just become an urban species, with over 50% of the global population living in cities and urbanization accelerating. I’m far from alone in seeing cities as the crucible in which our future will be invented. What’s unique here at Shareable is that we believe that cities will only deliver on the promise for change if they are conceived as commons, as places to share.

This is all fine and well, but what I didn’t realize when we started Shareable was that there are all kinds of sharing and shared use that’s illegal (and not just file sharing!). I had been under the happy illusion that all sharing innovators needed to do was create new sharing models to obsolete old models (to paraphrase Buckminster Fuller) and we’d be all set.

But guess what? In many places, insurance laws do not allow you to insure a car that you rent to a neighbor, sell vegetables grown in your backyard, create a for-payment ridesharing service, or rent out a room in your home for a short stay. The list goes on and on. So, the sharing movement must do something much more difficult than building anew to obsolete the old — it must hack the law to make sharing easy and legal.

The good news is that while many national governments are gridlocked and failing to change, city governments are forging ahead. I have long known that cities have taken the lead in environmental policies, but it wasn’t until we began engaging San Francisco about participatory budgeting that I personally experienced the possibility for impact.

Through our coverage, sharing stories with city officials and mayoral candidates, and by sponsoring an expert visit to the mayor’s office, we helped start a serious dialog about participatory budgeting within city government and mayoral campaigns. While the outcome is uncertain, this has made me into an even more ardent believer in cities as a vehicle for change. Shareable cities are not only an inspiring vision, but a very real possibility if we work together to make it happen.”

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