Different perspectives on the collaborative economy
One reflects on the future in his capacity as a prospectivist, the other is an entrepreneur and works to structure it. Both are passionate about the collaborative economy, as an object of study or as a business issue. Fabien Giuliani (doctoral student in Arts et Métiers) defined five major issues on which he discussed with Edouard Dumortier (co-founder of AlloVoisins).
The uberization of the economy is often singled out for its perverse effects, such as hidden wage labor or bypassing old activity structures such as the license of taxis. Hence a first provocative but legitimate question:
Is the collaborative economy a producer or destroyer of value?
Fabien Giuliani : We must clearly differentiate between the collaborative economy on the one hand and the economy of on-demand services on the other hand, whose emblematic avatars are Uber and Deliveroo. If we adopt the attempted definition produced for legal purposes by Jourdain, Leclerc and Millerand, the collaborative economy is based on four characteristics: the autonomy of the direct service providers – in particular with regard to the ability to set the price, the expansion of sharing outside of already established communities, the creation of social links on occasion economic exchange, and finally the structuring role of the trust accorded to members of the community.
Adopting this definition amounts to excluding from the scope of the collaborative economy all platforms of the Uber-Deliveroo type, which dictate their prices and conditions to “self-employed” service providers, in a form of domination that evokes the custom work from the 19th century.
Edouard Dumortier : For me, the collaborative economy covers both peer-to-peer models such as Couchsurfing, Blablacar, Airbnb, Bon Coin or AlloVoisins that I co-founded in 2012, as well as business-to-peer models such as Velib ‘, Zipcar, Wikipedia, AMAPs or even free software. Whether or not these proposals have a lucrative purpose, the creation of value for the user is obvious. Moreover, this added value is not only economic, it is also social and cultural.
How do you explain the emergence of the collaborative economy?
ED : From a strictly economic point of view, the purchasing power of the middle and working classes has not increased in France for ten years, and alternative models are emerging because they nevertheless allow access to consumption . But this is only one aspect of the phenomenon. The price war that has raged between producers or between distributors has caused a reduction in the quality of products, from all points of view: nutritional, ecological, social … The collaborative economy is nourished by a desire to consume better, which is nothing new since we could already detect at the end of the 1960s the demand for a different way of life and increased collaboration between individuals.
FG : A PIPAME report dated 2015 clearly shows the link between the rise of the collaborative economy and the economic crisis of 2007-2008. But in my opinion a paradigm shift did indeed occur at the start of the 2010s. The detonating element seems to be the revolution in the structuring of information, which manifested itself in a reshaping of access to information. resources. The fundamental characteristic of collaborative offers lies in the opening of spaces for sharing economic resources, whether these are digital or physical platforms such as FabLabs or the Accorderies network.
ED : I would add that the so-called “collaborative” practices that involve the provision of resources between peers are timeless. But they became a subject when we were able to quantify them and they spread through the digital channel. Our grandparents had habits that today we would qualify as collaborative, and that probably more than our parents. Perhaps we should view the collaborative economy as a latent phenomenon, which has remained unrecognized or unthought of until it seriously challenged the practices of current capitalism.
Should we consider the collaborative economy as a breakthrough linked to digitization?
ED : In my opinion, the rupture comes more from the uses than from the technology used. When I co-founded AlloVoisins, my idea was to facilitate the meeting between a need – that of people who need a local helping hand, and an offer – that of people who have the required skills and the want to make it available. The goal is to reweave links between users. The use of a digital platform is only one means at the service of this vision, and is therefore not very significant. What is, in my opinion, is that we facilitate the production of small domestic services between neighbors, and that we thus reinitiate a dynamic of exchange of proximity which goes beyond the initial practices.
FG : The term of rupture is undoubtedly exaggerated because the mutualisation of the means of production has always existed locally: it was enough for example to ring at the neighbor to borrow his drill. It seems that this phenomenon of local sharing and based on a network of personal knowledge has changed in recent years. We can consider the change of scale enabled by the digital channel as a change in the nature of the phenomenon: where your neighbor lent his drill three or four times a year, he will perhaps rent it three or four times a week thanks to the digital channel, by allowing more neighbors to benefit from it and by gleaning a little money in the process. Mediation via a digital platform is therefore not neutral – no technical mediation is.
Isn’t the commodification of certain parts of the economy, which had until then been ensured by solidarity between relatives, problematic?
ED : When we are outraged against the service “Watch over my parents” offered by La Poste, I think that what we consider immoral is that we can pay a company to do something that we should do oneself. The problem is not the monetization of a service whose value is obvious, but the degradation of the social bond to which it testifies. The common bet for AlloVoisins, Blablacar, time banks or Trade Schools, for example, is that we can recreate social ties from an exchange, whether or not it is monetized. The relationship can also work in that sense.
FG : As in the case of the Social and Solidarity Economy, an economic base is needed to support the collaborative models that are currently developing. Criticisms already formulated against the SSE are addressed to all forms of collaborative economy with a commercial purpose. Among these, two constitute the major challenges of the collaborative economy: the fair distribution of the value created – which is a consubstantial stake in any productive activity, and the taking into account of the systemic effects of the development of these offers. This last problem is formidable for the prospectivist.
Let’s go back to Edouard’s distinction between peer-to-peer and business-to-peer value propositions. It seems obvious that the last mentioned are recompositions of value propositions under the effect of digitization, and as such soluble in the current economic system. Vélib ‘was until recently managed by JC Decaux, and the late Autolib’ by the Bolloré group. It is the peer-to-peer models that are transforming our societies the most, with very contrasting and sometimes paradoxical effects.
What is the economic impact of an actor like Airbnb which contributes to real estate inflation but seems to increase the repercussions linked to tourism for traders? What is the ecological impact of a Blablacar, which increases the filling rate of personal vehicles but undoubtedly encourages individuals to move more? It is also necessary to consider that the peer-to-peer offers do not replace the traditional offers, but reach another clientele. The collaborative economy could well reshape our entire economic system. But to what extent? In my opinion, the real problem is here.
The liberal consumerist model is more and more socially contested and seems to be at the end of its rope ecologically. Is the collaborative economy set to become the norm?
ED : I think so. Access to goods everywhere seems to trump their possessions. Leasing or on-demand services are on the rise. The collaborative economy is part of this movement. Why buy a hedge trimmer that will serve me three or four times a year when I can rent the neighbor’s? For the middle and working classes, the challenge is to maintain purchasing power that no longer increases, while for the wealthier households, it is the search for an alternative experience and a better life. which takes precedence. But in both cases, the result is the same: access and collaboration win. I am therefore happy to bet on the transformative power of the collaborative economy, which is intended to infuse in all areas of the economy.
FG : For my part, I would be more measured, although I share the observation that makes the collaborative economy a relay to the consumerist desires of individuals. In addition to the systemic paradoxes already mentioned, I have two reservations about its development: on the one hand, we know nothing of our collective capacity for learning from the large-scale collaboration that will require the widening and deepening of its diffusion. Successful experiences are all fragmented, and only cover certain aspects of our needs.
But are we ready to give up more and more goods for more and more bonds? And then, second limit, the collaborative economy is developing using the resources of the current consumerist system (platforms, algorithms, data, etc.), which in return it corrects certain weaknesses. If the dominant economic model were a shark, the collaborative model would be metaphorically a remora, which takes advantage of its wake and lives in symbiosis with it. We can see collaborative “remoras” multiplying for the benefit of all, but a change in economic paradigm implies deeper transformations, and in particular the end of hyperconsumption.
Fabien Giuliani graduated in History, Business School, and holds an MBA in Economic Intelligence. PhD student at the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts, he works on the link between strategic watch and prospective.
Edouard Dumortier is a graduate of ESSCA. After an employee career in mass distribution, consulting and franchising, he co-founded AlloVoisins in 2012, which he manages on a daily basis. Edouard Dumortier is passionate about the Collaborative Economy, which he perceives as a fundamental trend that has to disrupt established models.
Lecturer and doctoral student in management science, Fabien Giuliani studies the link between strategic watch and prospective. His research aims in particular to shed light on the uses of artificial intelligence in the field of economic intelligence.
Founder of the firm Demain la Veille, he advises companies in terms of digital transformation strategy and strategic information management. The changes linked to the digital economy are his favorite theme.