Airbnbfication of Lisbon: Effects of short-term rentals on Lisbon
Author(s): Felipe Ferri de C. Paes, Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra
Case study type: Airbnb and alternatives
Keywords: Airbnb; Sharing economy; Gentrification; Spatial Analysis; Rental pricing
Airbnb is becoming increasingly a phenomenon within the peer-to-peer market concept of house sharing. The platform works as an intermediary between hosts, the ones whose provide the property for renting and users, the ones who are looking to stay in a Short-Term Rental. As a conceptual peer-to-peer platform, Airbnb has been created under the Sharing Economy umbrella. Hosting may involve either students or people who have a spare room on their property, thereby using it to earn extra money or even in the social sense to get to know new people. However, what recent academic studies are unveiling is that Airbnb is not following Sharing Economy premises but is rather a firm situated in the regular economy. Nevertheless, the real effects caused by Airbnb and Sharing Economy are still unknown and in need of deeper analysis. Thus, the objective of this research is to explore and then better understand the causes and effects of the platform’s growth. To realise this aim, we conducted a variety of spatial analysis through the ArcGIS software. This work analyses how Airbnb is affecting Lisbon in terms of effects on housing stock, renting price, regulation and policy, gentrification, and the touristic environment of the city. The data was gathered by web scraping the Airbnb website with a scrawl tool. Furthermore, the last census tract made in Portugal has been used as a reliable source of demographic data. Finally, metrics of calculating the estimated the host gross revenues, the availability of houses listed on the platforms, the inequality among hosts, and then correlated to the touristic flow of Portugal and Lisbon as variables to one another and used as premises of analysis.
Over the last years, Portugal is undergoing a touristic boom, according to the INE the tourism is increasing playing an important role in the country economic environment and practically account for more than 10% of the Portuguese economy. There are many people struggling to find out those fairer manner to improve the life of individuals as well as there are many people that use this fair path to reach personal interest only, that is one principle of this study, mainly, regarding the sharing economy discourse. Beyond that, as consequence of the 2008’s crisis, many people lost their dwellings as a crisis’ aftermath and the portuguese are not accounted out of this math. Gentrification got my interest over the economic opportunities provided by this phenomenon to people with more economic purchase power as well as governments backing them on this non-fair game. (August & Walks, 2018; Kayzar & Derickson, 2015; Lees, Slater, & Wyly, 2007; Quintana, 2018). Likewise, Airbnb has the power to take out houses of the market as Wachsmuth, Chaney, Kerrigan, Shillolo, & Basalaev-Binder (2018) has proven in their report of consequences of the STR market in New York City, moreover, the platform has already faced communities’ outcry of its displacement power around many cities of Europe as Coimbra, Barcelona, Lisbon, Porto, among others.
Methodology: Data collection and tools
In order to have reliable data to analyse and work with, this study relies on two main data sources of Airbnb which they are the Tom Slee17 and Insideairbnb.com18, both serving as database websites. Beyond, the data afforded by the National Statistics Institute of Portugal (INE), articles, reports and news.
A spatial analysis is applied through the software ArcGIS, specifically, by utilizing the tool ArcMap, in which is possible to make geographic studies by inputting database sheets and map shapefiles, having a large view that along with the data collected is possible to shape and tailor the information towards the interest of the research by doing a scrutiny. This study aims at Airbnb entire home’s offers as an economic and gentrification tool, as such, this type of listing will be the main subject of analysis.
Calculation. Host gross revenue estimation calculation platform for each listing the formula Ry=(ry∗1.30)∗ppn∗2,4 has been used in this study (Picascia, Romano, & Teobaldi, 2017); Estimation of Long-term rental earnings; Calculation of Gini Index; Platform listing availability;
The term Airfication or Airbnbification of cities (Celata, Stefania, et al., 2017; Picascia et al., 2017) were mentioned to determine how the Airbnb is taking over great cities, bringing out many themes to discussion and to be analysed as the platform’s growth, its density around the city, regulation, commercial opportunities, inequality and gentrification agents. Therefore, to have an overview on the Airbnb’s business model, the analysis will explore whether the platform follows concepts of sharing economy or it is aiming to the current economy, its evidences of a business for-profit, its business growth stressing its hotel-like modelling by listing entire homes on the platform, its correlation to tourism and even with the astonishing ramp up of housing prices in Lisbon.
Findings and conclusions
Following the tourist’s explosive wave in Portugal, Airbnb is growing in stride around the country, the platform has increased by 192% the overall number of listing and by 144% entire home listing along the spanning time of analysis, rising throughout the historic centre and expanding to the surroundings as a gentrification tendency.
The platform shows its power of taking off the housing stock of the city, having a considerable number of properties constantly available as a market flipping behaviour of investors who now realise the profitable opportunity of STR over LTR contract model.
Another consequence of the Airbnb and a gentrification subject is the renting prices rocketing over the last four years, in which the tourism has an impulsive role as well. Recently, the renting prices of the city have reached a plateau out of the reality of the Portuguese standard where the minimum wage value may be charged for a single room. These consequences caused either by the tourism expiation or by the renting price have straightforward correlation to people displacement and downsize the overall life quality, once individuals need to look for a new place to live, usually, far away from their workplace or a house with lower conditions.
In the economic regard, the Airbnb presents a huge inequality among its hosts, in Lisbon about 10% of the hosts earn astonishes 63% of the whole estimated gross revenue on the platform as well as a considerable high Gini index by 0,623 in 2018, the double of the country’s Gini index for the adult people accounted by 32,6% in 201733. Among them many are commercial players, having more than one property listed on the platform thus representing a marketplace opportunity for investors.
The city of Lisbon is backing the STR market by making policies to adequate the Airbnb into the city rules, harnessing the Airbnb’s expansion throughout the city to charge fees and generate more income to the district. It is a policy that goes in confront against the dwelling’s issue that Lisbon faces and a right ensured by the Portuguese Constitution.
The question remains: Will Lisbon citizens withstand the rental prices ascension? Is the life quality of the individuals in Lisbon worsening?
Link to publication: Airbnbfication of Lisbon - Effects of the Short-Term Rentals in Lisbon. Master's Thesis (PDF Available on ResearchGate) DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.32908.87685
Performing “Home” in the Platform Economies of Tourism: A case study of Airbnb in Sofia, Bulgaria
Author: Maartje Roelofsen, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Case study type: Airbnb and alternatives
Keywords: Airbnb, platform economy, hospitality, Bulgaria
Short-term rental platform Airbnb enables people to rent or rent out accommodation. In the last decade, the platform has been geared towards providing accommodation and tourist experiences for (business) travelers. However, it is currently considering expanding its offer to accommodate long-term tenants such as students and people who carry out long-term work in a location.
In 2016, Airbnb expanded its platform by introducing the City Hosts programme (now called Experiences), through which guests can book workshops and engage in activities with Airbnb-hosts against a set fee. Airbnb has promoted itself as “the world’s leading community- driven hospitality company” that connects travellers (guests) with local hosts. Guests can book a room on-site, which entails renting a (shared) bedroom within a host’s home, with the host typically physically present throughout the stay. Alternatively, a guest may rent a host’s entire accommodation without the host being physically present during a guest’s stay. The platform was initially conceived of as a “peer-to-peer” platform for people who wanted to rent out the homes in which they lived (or rooms/beds within those homes) to travellers. Today the platform is known to attract an increasing number of commercial hosts such as real estate investors, landlords and property managers who do not have their primary residence in the properties that they list and rent out online.
Various studies have shown that the majority of listings on the platform concern entire properties (apartments, houses etc.) and a much smaller percentage of listings on the platform concerns rooms or beds within properties. Since the platform company’s establishment in 2008, its operations have grown exponentially the world over – Airbnb now lists more than 7 million listings in over 100,000 cities on its website. As of 2020, Airbnb has an estimated US$ 26.0 billion firm valuation, making it one of the most notable “decacorns” globally – a start-up that has collected over 10 billion dollars in venture capital. Airbnb raises revenue by charging booking fees to both hosts and guests. Despite being a profitable economic activity for some accommodation providers, the benefits produced by Airbnb tend to be unevenly distributed among local populations. It has added to existing socio-economic disparities within cities by adversely impacting urban housing markets, local livelihoods and the hotel industry.
The general aim of this study is to provide a critical analysis of the role of Airbnb in shaping people’s everyday lives. In particular, it aims to flesh out the hosts and guests understanding and performance of “home” when staying together in an Airbnb-home. “Home”, in this respect, is more than the material “brick-and-mortar” understanding that is commonly associated with the concept of “house”. Although influenced by the physical/material structures of a house, “home” is a concept that reflects the emotions and relationships that bring it into being, as well as the cultural- and social expectations that people have of “home”. Empirically, this study focuses on the Airbnb economy within Sofia (Bulgaria) and intends to respond to the following questions: How are people’s intimate spatialities shared and the idea of “home” performed as part of the Airbnb experience? How is “home” made and unmade when relative “strangers” move in and out of home with each new transaction.
The study relies on an ethnographic and autoethnographic approach. In performing autoethnography, the living and embodied subjective self of the researcher is considered an active agent and a constitutive part of the research process. In my capacity as a guest, I thus considered myself an active agent in making-home rather than a passive observer who sits on the receiving end of the Airbnb experience. During a period of 3 months, I stayed with 11 different Airbnb hosts in Sofia, Bulgaria. Whilst staying with my hosts in their homes, I conducted interviews with them and undertook participant observation – joining them in different kinds of activities. Interviews were recorded and transcribed, and my own experiences as a guest were documented in a (video) diary, whereas photos of my stays served as an ‘aide memoire’.
- The way Airbnb homes are shared and performed depends largely on the materialities of “home”, which are interwoven with the history and politics of their related contexts. People’s intimate spatialities are continuously shaped not just by themselves but also by outside forces. For example, with the largescale privatisation of energy in Bulgaria and the resulting rise in energy prices, many people struggled to afford their energy bills and to maintain thermal comfort. The inability to provide a comfortable thermal environment to guests, lead to feelings of unhomeliness on part of both host and guest.
- Under specific and sometimes challenging conditions, Airbnb hosts and guests engage in certain practices of home-making to make each other “feel at home”. These include implicit and explicit bordering practices such as: pointing out how certain spaces (bathroom, kitchen etc.) should be used; informing each other which spaces are to be avoided during the stay (bedroom, study room, communal hallway etc.); avoiding being overtly present in the communal areas of the house (kitchen, living room, garden etc.); being deliberately silent for the duration of the stay, between and outside “quiet hours” of the day.
- There was an ambiguous notion that some intimate practices should be shared as part of the Airbnb experience whereas others were not. For example, having breakfast together was (in some instances) encouraged, whereas leaving behind bodily products in the house was considered inappropriate.
- Certain materialities of home that are deemed to possess particular “symbolical” value are selectively re-signified by the hosts in order to “stage” an authentic experience of life and home.
- Both host and guest play a fundamental role in “home-making” by providing a hospitable atmosphere, not impinging on each other’s privacy, and performing “home” according to a set of social and cultural expectations on part of both host and guest.
Link to publication: Open Access: Roelofsen, M. (2018). Performing “home” in the sharing economies of tourism: the Airbnb experience in Sofia, Bulgaria. Fennia - International Journal of Geography, 196(1), 24-42. https://doi.org/10.11143…
Sharing and Collaboration in European Ecovillages
Author(s): Dicte Frost
Case study type: Local initiatives
Keywords: ecovillage, sustainability, common ownership, reciprocity
The term ‘ecovillage’ is a relatively new addition to the vocabulary. Ecovillages are human settlements of individuals who live together in community, holding shared ideals, values and/or lifestyles. At minimum common denominator is sustainability. These living communities are a growing phenomenon in Europe: we swiftly see the rise of both new ecovillages and new national ecovillage networks (the newest being the Ukranian one). Because of the three main characteristics of ecovillages, the first being an intentional community, the second being living in close proximity and the third is having sustainability as a core objective, sharing economy behaviours are vivid in these places. What makes ecovillages interesting for a collaborative economy review is the combination of both breadth and depth of sharing practices, along with innovations in collaborative institutionalisations and social processes.
Apart from the classifying traits mentioned above, ecovillages are of broad variability. They can be small or big, members can live in a single building complex or in houses separated by families, they can be an agricultural community or urban, and each member can be economically independent or the community can have a shared economy. These are just a few among the diverse spectrum of ecovillages, as they continue to be shaped and changed by their members.
Despite the diversity, some degree of ecovillage sharing and collaboration is close to universal. The most apparent way of sharing is common ownership of, or access to, facilities, goods or services. Some ecovillages share everything except for a few private belongings (like ‘one big family’), while other ecovillages share certain facilities such as kitchens, workshop rooms and agricultural lands, or common goods like tools, common groceries or a sauna. This kind of sharing delinks the access to a wide variety of facilities/ goods/services and individual financial capital. In other words, pooling resources makes ‘luxury’ items such as a pool, organic food or a sewing studio available to people who would not be able to afford it alone.
Doing ‘services’ for each other is another way that the ecovillage members collaborate and share responsibilities. A noteworthy example is common cooking and common dinners. Through these social responsibilities, the ecovillage members build social relations and deepen inter-group and inter-personal levels of trust. Other examples are common child care and consumers and producers groups. This is ‘community work’ that directly responds to a need of the community and its individual members. It is a way of expanding regular household chores to the greater community – where it is often more effectively handled. This kind of social self-organisation can also respond to community desires (rather than needs) such as self-organised yoga classes, singing circles or movie nights. In short, sharing and collaborative behaviours happen in ecovillages based on (different degrees of) common ownership and shared responsibility.
Ecovillages are also interesting for their unique diversification of sharing methodologies. Apart from common ownership, ecovillages also share goods and services through ‘free flow’/generalised reciprocity, gifting, bartering, and lending and borrowing. Each ecovillage, and each member of the ecovillage, will typically draw on multiple methodologies (alongside monetary exchanges) depending on their possibilities, structures and norms. Creating a collage of different methodologies, allows the ecovillages to be more economically resilient and to stand as a viable (or partially viable) alternative to solely wage work and monetary exchanges. The different methodologies are used within the ecovillages, as well as in the external relations of the ecovillages – in example through networks or in relation to neighbouring villages.
The study of the collaborative and sharing economy of European ecovillages was part of a larger scope of research on the economics of ecovillages. Research took place in 2018 - 2019 and included 5 ecovillage cases located in five different countries: Spain, Slovenia, Ukraine, Germany and Denmark. The cases where selected based on a diverse representation of size, age, geographical context, economic organisation and economic activities. Data was obtained using interviews and participant observations. In total, 74 interviews were carried out mainly covering individual accounts of ecovillage members. Another interview design covered enterprise and organisational accounts of representatives located in the ecovillages, while the last accounts covered the ecovillage as a whole, based on interviews with representative of the ‘economic group’ of each community.
The research primarily focusses on mapping and categorising the sharing and collaborative behaviour in the case ecovillages. It further creates a framework for sharing methodologies applied in ecovillages and proposes a model for understanding the enablers of sharing and collaboration. Focal points of discussion revolve around the role of trust, the limits to sharing, the debatable necessity of mental transitions and lastly, the adaptability of sharing and collaborative institutions.
Publication: Dicte Frost (2019). Intermediate sharing realities: European ecovillages. In: Travlou, P. and Ciolfi, L. (Eds.). Ethnographies of Collaborative Economies Conference Proceedings. University of Edinburgh, 25 October 2019. ISBN 978-1-912669-11-0. Paper No. 6
Accommodation platforms in Germany and their usability
Author(s): Dominik Pins, Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT
Case study type: Airbnb and Alternatives
Keywords: accommodation platforms, Airbnb, Wimdu, Gloveler, Booking, usability
Accommodations platforms like Airbnb, Wimdu, Gloveler, Booking and many more offer private accommodations to tourists and passengers in transit. In Germany like in almost every other country, the trend for sharing private rooms, couches or whole apartments goes back a long way. Guesthouses and rooms have a long tradition and in the past, people could get an affordable place to sleep in almost every town and even small villages that did not offer any hotels in the vicinity.
Digitalization of the accommodation search
With the Internet, finding accommodation for holidays or short stays has become much easier, because travelers can find and book accommodation in advance. Alternative services to hotels and professional guesthouses started in the beginning of the 21st century with communities such as Couchsurfing and Airbnb, probably among the most prominent examples for sharing economy platforms. Whereas the Couchsurfing concept facilitates sharing based on trust and without fees, Airbnb is based on a commercial model.
Accommodation often offers cultural proximity and exchange
For travelers – whether alone or in groups – private accommodations often offer an interesting alternative to hotels. They give the opportunity to get to know the country and its people better and are often more attractive in terms of price. Platforms like Airbnb offer rooms or accommodations where the owner / provider is usually present. In addition, holiday cottages and apartments currently not occupied by the owner or provider are attractive because of their often less touristic location. A sustainable and conscious consumption also leads to an acting according to sharing economy principle in holiday planning. In this way, the sharing of accommodations preventing the need of new purchases and already existing resources can be optimally used. In addition to this, it is also the personal contact to the owner of the accommodation, that gives some benefits like insider information of the city or surrounded areas.
Business concept and its impact
Most of the mentioned platforms work in a pretty similar way. They all provide web-based portals and often apps where users can advertise their house, apartment room or even a couch. Visitors can search the catalogue based on certain criteria such as location, fees, ratings or special needs such as Internet connection. The platforms acts as a mediator for booking stays, providing communication channels between landlords and guests, and provide means for payment.
In general, the platform is usually free for those who are looking for accommodation. The platforms are funding themselves by taking a share of the accommodation costs. Because of that, most platforms do not allow direct communication between both parties to ensure processing via the platform. These includes also the offered payment methods.
In Germany, the sharing economy of accommodations is often criticized for contributing negatively towards the general lack of affordable housing, especially in urban areas. For landlords, it is often more profitable to offer their habitations for short term tourists in comparison to long-term renting (especially because the German renting laws are highly regulated in comparison). It’s hard to assess the impact of this effect because official statistics for overnight stays only take cases into account where a whole apartment or house is rented, while renting of rooms, beds or couches are often not covered. Furthermore, it’s hard to distinguish between private and professional offers. However, a study of the GBI AG, a property development company, assumes that in 2015 every 11th city traveler used Airbnb and co.
Aims and approach of our Study
In our study, we analyzed eleven portals for accommodations in Germany regarding their usability. The aim was to understand how the different platforms differ in terms of their effectivity, efficiency and regarding user satisfaction from the perspective of tourists searching for accommodation.
The study was undertaken in June 2019. The selection of the examined platforms was based on a study of Stiftung Warentest (09/2015) where 21 German accommodation and hotel platforms were tested regarding different topics. Out of them, we chose those websites that offer private accommodations and holiday cottages or flats in Germany: Airbnb, Wimdu, Gloveler, Housetrip, Fewo-direkt, booking, tourist-online, e-domizil. Casamundo and Holidayinsider.
The requirements for the analysis were based on interviews with typical user groups. For this study, we asked families, couples, groups of friends and single travelers how they plan their vacation and especially their way of looking for and choosing an accommodation. With the interviews, we were able to identify 37 user requirements and clustered them into eight dimensions: planning, location and surrounding of an accommodation, exclusion criteria (assessment and hygiene), type and room division, furnishing, equipment, price transparency and organization and services.
The inspection was made in two steps. At first, we checked if the requirement can be fulfilled (effectivity) and if so, we tested in a second step if there exist limitations in conducting the requirement like redundancies or lacks of self-description (efficiency). This way for every requirement, the platforms could reach up to 2 points.
The study found that most platforms suffer from a lack of consistency in the description of accommodation, which makes it cumbersome for users to find the required information. Typical examples are redundancies (or mismatches) of provided information. Furthermore, the platforms often use terms that need further explanation or are ambiguous, e.g. “bathroom” vs. “family bathroom” vs. “separate bathroom”, especially when all terms are listed for one accommodation. Another critical finding was that some types of information are missing in some accommodation descriptions, while they are available in others. This frustrates users as it makes decision-making more difficult.
Another critical finding is the lack of possibility to contact the owners directly. Some of the investigated platforms only provide access to a service hotline of the platform if there are questions. The users get the contact information of the owner only after the booking has been completed. There are also issues with the transparency of costs, because optional fees will often not be included in the price listing and usually have to be paid in cash upon arrival.
The third general problem is the input of data because in some cases the platform deviate from commonly used practices. For example, in one example users cannot directly type in the date of start and end of his journey. Instead, they have to enter the duration of the trip and if necessary, calculate it beforehand. Another platform does not understand German umlauts (ä, ö, ü) in entered destinations. Some platforms also listed hotels or fully booked accommodations even if they were supposed to be filtered out.
Our study showed several areas where share economy platforms make it hard for their users to find the desired information. Even in non-professional contexts, consistence and order of presented information is important – especially when it comes to costs and fees. Our study provides clues about common pitfalls and issues that platforms could use to improve their usability.
The Food Bank (Fødevarebanken)
Author(s): Henrik Korsgaard and Susanne Bødker, Aarhus University
Case study type: Local Initiative
Keywords: Food sharing, policy, strategy
The foodbank (Fødevarebanken), that is dedicated to large-scale re-circulation of groceries and other food produce between donor organizations and a variety of NGOs and (semi-)public organisations that aim to increase health and living-conditions for socially vulnerable people and families. These organizations include homeless shelters, orphanages and breakfast clubs in local schools. The foodbank is organised as an NGO with a core group of employed and volunteered staff in three locations in Denmark. The foodbank is primarily funded through donations and redistribute food produced donated by producers, distributors, and to a smaller degree, retails and surplus food from selected events (e.g. festivals and expos). The foodbank has been operating since 2008. In 2018 they recirculated 1080 metric ton (approximately 2.7 million meals).
There are multiple reasons for the significant food waste within the donor's distribution chains: Overproduction to ensure retail and consumer demands, mitigation of quality issues occurring in distribution, logistical issues and hold-ups in the distribution chain, and issues related to expiration dates and shelf-life expectancy in retail. Some examples include packaging misprints or breached batches where on item is broken on a pallet. Although sending food produce to a controlled destruction facility can be a costly affair, it is often cheaper than fixing the isolated issue(s). All in all, a wide range of products (canned foods, dry-goods, bread, vegetables, candy, soft-drinks, juices, diary etc.) that previously would have been destroyed, is now being donated to the foodbank for the purpose of redistribution. Thus, the foodbank offers an alternative to the costly destruction of produce that also offers a different public image to the donor's in relation to overproduction and food waste within the sector.
The food items are distributed to member organization that cook to feed socially marginalised communities and people in need. These organizations have professional kitchens and staff who undertake the planning and cooking and hence also have a budget and documentation of the cooking process to be taken care of. Through the donations from the foodbank it is possible to raise the quality of the food. At the same time, the recipients pay a handling fee to the foodbank, and there is a standing concern for value for money, and generally for the budget.
The practical redistribution is done by volunteers who typically come to work for the foodbank one half day a week. The volunteers have specific shifts, mainly driving the weekly pick-ups, re- packing the food within the warehouse for distribution and then driving the weekly delivery routes to the recipient organizations. When joining the foodbank, they are trained in how to handle food produce, warehouse registration, and how the deliveries operate. Typically, new volunteers are trained by the employed staff and then assigned a shift with experienced volunteers. The staff handles the connections to the donors, the PR side of the business, including getting new volunteers, donors and recipients, and they are responsible for processes of compliance with legislation regarding the handling of food. The staff has a brief meeting with the volunteers at the start of every new shift, and generally volunteers and staff meet at the shared lunch. The food is distributed on weekly delivery routes. The vans are packed by volunteers and staff prior to driving the route. Here they balance what is in the warehouse with the number of routes and expiration dates to minimize food waste at the food bank and provide a balanced mix of produce for the recipients. In route, the volunteers meet the kitchen staff at 'their' different recipient organizations and get to know what food items the staff prefers and can make use of, and they use this to negotiate with the staff to 'take more' of various food items when these are in stock.
The Foodbank was studied throughout 2018, and involved multiple participants from the foodbank, donors and recipients in various degrees. Collaboration was initiated with the Aarhus branch of the foodbank in an informal manner as a potential case for student projects and research. The collaboration ended mid-October 2018. Activities included also design activities, participant observations and frequent meetings with the staff at the foodbank throughout 2018 to coordinate activities and maintain a shared understanding of the proposed activities and outcomes.
The primary research activities have focused on the intersection between the (at times conflicting) objectives of the Foodbank – minimizing food waste and redistributing excess food to people in need – and how the Foodbank work with the data they generate in quantifying and qualifying their impact and daily operations.
More details: The case has been presented and discussed in two student projects by Lisa Borum and Niklas Nørregaard, AU (material available upon request to email@example.com)
Publication: Nathalie Bressa, Kendra Wannamaker, Henrik Korsgaard, Wesley Willett, and Jo Vermeulen. 2019. Sketching and Ideation Activities for Situated Visualization Design. In Proceedings of the 2019 on Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS '19). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 173-185. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/…
Aarhus Organic Food Community
Author(s): Susanne Bødker, Henrik Korsgaard, Peter Lyle, and Joanna Saad-Sulonen, Aarhus University and IT-University of Copenhagen
Case study type: Local Initiative
Keywords: Caring economy, alternative foods
This case involves a local organic food community (AOFF) in Aarhus, Denmark, as studied between 2014 and 2016.
It was founded by two women who wanted to have alternative and cheaper access to local organic food. They initiated the community in late 2010 and were inspired by the practices of an organic food community established in Copenhagen. The community organizes buying locally grown organic produce (vegetables, egg, meats) from farmers and distribute this to the members of the community. The farmers deliver the produce to the local community center each Thursday and the members pack bags which are then picked by the members based on preorders. Some members volunteer for the packing shift to make goods available for all members to pick up and place new orders. Since early 2016 the community has introduced a web shop on their new website where it is also possible for members to order their bags online beforehand. The 900 members are mostly people in their 20’s to 40’s. The two founders started a local initiative based on the model from Copenhagen with a community wiki as the primary organizational platform. They created a Facebook page, which to trigger interest in the ideas. Facebook played a vital role in the initial formation of the community. Various attempts were made to handle email distribution lists, within or outside of the community webpage, which has been under constant development throughout the lifespan of the community, in the hands of several different volunteer web developers with numerous platform problems in tow.
AOFF is a legal entity in the form of a registered association which requires a board, by-laws and a yearly general assembly. The organic food community is highly organized with a board and seven working groups managing the community, arranging events, coordinating with authorities (permits and hygiene inspection), buying and coordinating with the local farmers, and selling and distributing the organic food goods to the ordinary members of the community.
Members pay a fee upon joining the community and were required to volunteer for three hours each month, coordinated through a scheduling tool on the community website (this system has then been changed and started to resemble more a webshop with a local and community run distribution spot). The community organization is flat and open to all members, with weekly meetings in the working groups, monthly community meetings and an annual general assembly. AOFF makes a particular point of being a flat organization and that every decision should be taken democratically.
AOFF activities were studied between 2014 and 2016, using participant observations, interviews, and content analysis of online material produced by the community. Data was studied from the minutes of community meetings (56 between 2011 and March 2016), as reported in the members’ section of the community website. A series of interviews was conducted between 2014 and 2016 of six core members of the community, who had some involvement in technology-related decisions or activities. The interviews were semi-structured. Another set of interviews including an artifact ecology mapping exercise and was conducted with five members.
What can we learn about sharing and caring practices from the AOFF case?
Communities like AOFF do not want or even understand scale in the same way as commercial “sharing economy” initiatives (i.e. driven by the logic of markets and growth). They learn and draw inspiration from similar initiatives and coordinate around joint activates (e.g. attempting apply for funding or promoting their approach), while also striving for maintaining a local identity and organization.
Dealing with IT and organizational infrastructure is an integrated part of the community work and concerns, both initially in trying to gain traction and configure the community, and in the day-to-day operation and management of the community. Communities often favor services and applications that are free (as in monetary cost) and commonly used by members and collaborators. At the same time, we witnessed a desire to create their own website/web shop, as the community members claimed that the features and functionalities they would need was not available otherwise.
AOFF are frequently dealing with tensions between being an organic food community and alternative to food distribution and then requests for and ambitions toward providing services mirroring shops and commercial services (e.g. full web-shop, produce selection, payment services). For instance, while introducing a web-shop might ease some of the tasks in taking order and payment in the Thursday pop-up shop, it might also minimize the touchpoints and social interactions among the members of the community.
For more details, see: http://pure.au.dk/portal…(87d4fbb6-b38c- 449e-b87d-59f693b7d6f0)/cv.html?id=40299654
Bødker, S., Lyle, P. Saad-Sulonen, J. (2017). Untangling the mess of technological artifacts: investigating community artifact ecologies. Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Communities and Technologies, 246-255.
Bødker, S., Lyle P. (2017). Community end-user development: Patterns, platforms, possibilities and problems, IS-EUD 2017, pp. 76.
Bødker, S., Korsgaard, H., Lyle, P., Saad-Sulonen, J. (2016). Happenstance, Strategies and Tactics: Intrinsic Design in a Volunteer-based Community. In Proceedings of the 9th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (NordiCHI '16). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Article 10.
Bødker, S., Korsgaard, H. Saad-Sulonen, J. (2016). 'A Farmer, a Place and at least 20 Members': The Development of Artifact Ecologies in Volunteer-based Communities. In Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (CSCW '16). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1142-1156.
Usage of Facebook for Inter-city Ride Sharing in North Macedonia
Authors: Mijalche Santa & Anita Ciunova Shuleska, Ss Cyril and Methodius University, Faculty of Economics in Skopje
Country: North Macedonia
Case study type: Local initiatives
Keywords: Ride Sharing, Facebook, Affordances, Non-dedicated platforms
The key idea behind this initiative is by using Facebook features to enable ride-sharing for individuals that commute between the cities Veles and Skopje in Republic of Macedonia. In a closed Facebook group individuals can post offers of free seats in their vehicle available for sharing or they can post requests for free seats available for sharing. Based on the published post, interested parties make arrangements through Facebook messenger and/or mobile phones.
Facebook is not a digital platform dedicated to facilitating ride-sharing like Uber, Blabla car and others are. The use of Facebook as a ride-sharing platform can be a result of several factors:
- lack of presence of dedicated ride-sharing platforms through which individuals can organise ride-sharing. This requires people to identify other ways how to organise ride sharing.
- strong presence of individuals on Facebook as social media. This provides sufficient number of individuals that can act as a driver or passenger.
- large number of individuals from Veles need to commute on daily basis to Skopje and to return back to Veles. This ensures that there is a continuous need for facilitation of the ride-sharing practices.
The use of Facebook for organising inter-city ride-sharing is interesting for two reasons:
- First, it shows how in a context where there is no dedicated platforms for ride-sharing people can use other non-dedicated platforms to organise ride-sharing as one of the most complex sharing economy activities
- Second, it shows that technology might not be the most important aspect of the sharing economy, but the affordances that are result of the relations established between the people and the available technology. This provides different perspective for research of sharing economy and opportunities to identify how sharing economy can evolve in contexts where is a lack of dedicated platforms.
The lack of dedicated centralised provider enables the value of the business model to be distributed among the members of the group. Group members gain monetary value i.e. saving on travel costs, or other values like speed, convenience etc. 5000 members and more than 60 post per day demonstrate the value of this group for its members.
The possible positive impacts of this initiative are: sharing transportation minimises the number of cars travelling from one city to another city, lowers the traffic congestion in the city of Skopje and consequently reduces the air pollution having in mind that recently Skopje has been listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) amongst the most poluted cities in Europe. Ridesharing also lowers the expenses of people traveling between the cities which is very important in a country where the average salary is low. On the other hand, ride-sharing decreases the need of people to use public transportation (buses and trains) resulting in lower demand for the services provided by public transporting companies and subsequently problems of sustaining their business.
The key themes covered in this research-in-progress are:
- Using Facebook for inter-city ride-sharing in a developing country
- Justification of affordance theory as a lens for theorising the empirical findings
- Identify socio-technological mechanisms that enable ride-sharing through non-dedicated digital platforms
The purpose of exploring these practices is to answer:
- How ride-sharing is organised through non-dedicated platforms and
- What are the socio-technological mechanisms that enable it?
To explore Facebook as non-dedicated ride sharing platform, we used a case study research. The distinctive need for the case study comes from the need to understand complex phenomena and to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of this phenomena. More specifically, the case study has a distinctive advantage when questions of why or how are asked for contemporary set of events over which the investigator has little or no control. We have used interviews as a main method to collect data. We aim through in-depth interviews to understand the experience of the individuals and the meaning they make from using Facebook as platform for organising ride sharing. Because this is an exploratory research, we have used half-structured interviews. We had a list of predetermined questions that leaded the interview, but during the interview and based on the answers from the interviewees we asked additional questions to the interviewees.
By reflecting of what we observed in the Facebook groups and based on interview information we preliminary found that key dimensions for effective use of affordances are: sufficient, trust and multiple exit points. Sufficient means that the information provided are adequate in quality and quantity for the actors’ needs. The participant can have different extend to which they provide information in the post for car offer/ car request. Furthermore, Facebook post features do not constrain the number of words or type of information people add, but again participants publish information that is sufficient for the other participants to make a decision to bid or not to bid for the ride-sharing. Trust is the strong believe in the reliability of the group. We could see a community trust that what is published in the posts or shared through the messenger will be realised. During the interviews, interviewees had hard time to identify when something which was agreed was not delivered. Finally, multiple exit points mean that members of ridesharing Facebook group can leave Facebook at different points and continue the organisation of the ride- sharing through mobile conversations. For example, first exit point could be if the post contains the mobile phone, the second is if the person interested in ridesharing is not satisfied with the profile of the person behind the offer/request and third when the mobile phone's number is exchanged through messenger.
This research-in-progress explores the practice of ride-sharing that is realised through Facebook although Facebook is general social media platform lacking features for organising ride-sharing. We think that this is a non-usual case and as such it can help us to better understand the mechanisms behind the sharing economy where there are non-dedicated platforms. On a theoretical aspect we make contribution by demonstrating the usability of the affordance theory for developing context-based theories of effective use and the benefits of using affordance- actualisation lens.
Since large part of the communication and organisation of the ride-sharing is done online within the Facebook group and in order to get insight in these communications we will use Netnography. Netnography is participant—observational research based in online fieldwork. It uses computer-mediated communications as a source of data to arrive at the ethnographic understanding and representation of a cultural or communal phenomenon. So, to improve and validate the results we will continue the interviews and will further engage in nethnographic research.
Macao independent centre for arts, culture and research: Working with Commonfare for the "Money of the Common"
Authors: Chiara Bassetti & Marco Sachy, University of Trento
Case study type: Local initiatives
Keywords: common, commoncoin, complementary currency, social wallet, commonfare, welfare
Macao is an informal organisation emerged in 2012 in response to precarious conditions of cultural workers in the arts and entertainment industries in Milan. The collective defines itself as an independent centre for arts, culture and research. "The acronym Macao is a mock-up name of the various Moma, Macba, Mambo, Maxi, Macro and other large institutions but offers a new perspective on the idea of museum: a museum made by militant artists" (http://www.macaomilano.org/spip.php?article166). Macao represents an experience of both symbolic and practical exodus from the subsumption of value into the dynamics of market economies. By developing the notion of radical active citizenship, the collective decided to occupy for a period the Torre Galfa and then Palazzo Citterio (a seventieth century building abandoned since the 1970s). Finally, Macao has settled in a more permanent — albeit occupied — premise in the city’s former slaughterhouse in a neighbourhood of Eastern Milan. This occupied space is run informally by the people involved. It hosts co-working spaces, cultural events, art exhibitions, music concerts, yoga classes, and a variety of workshops.
As years passed and the internal economy of Macao increased in complexity, organisers of the collective formulated the following question to manage such complexity while keeping a coherent approach to the realisation of their values: how can the processes that define different redistributive models be automated with digital technologies? Back in 2014, members of both Amsterdam-based Dyne.org Foundation — today a Commonfare project (cf. further) partner — and Macao met at Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid at the conference “The New Abduction of Europe – debt, war and democratic revolutions”. As a result of this foundational interaction, an embryonic concept of Money of the Common emerged. The concept then evolved in detail thanks to a two-day seminar organised on June 2014 at Macao headquarters by the Effimera intel- lectual and activist network (see Fumagalli and Braga, 2015). The outcome of this rich research has been the proposal for a digital complementary currency named Commoncoin. During four years of encounters, other conferences and a thorough research and co-design project, Commonfare / PIE News, Commoncoin was designed, developed and implemented.
The Commonfare / PIE News project, in which PIE stands for Poverty, lack of Income, and un/Employment, is an ongoing research and innovation project funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 programme. Its overarching objective is to promote the emergence of the Commonfare, or Welfare of the Commonwealth (General Intellect, 2018) as an alternative and sustainable socio-economic model, capable of meeting the needs and desires of people in financial difficulties and their communities through several forms of participatory welfare based on solidarity and practices of care. To achieve this goal, the project consortium developed a digital space —commonfare.net— and a complementary currency — Commoncoin— aimed at fostering the networking of people, communities and experiences thereby sup- porting promising ideas, experiments and initiatives of bottom-up welfare.
Commonfare.net has been co-designed together with people in troubling financial conditions in three European countries. The development process is articulated in different iterations involving research and co-design activities in Croatia (Zagreb especially), Italy (Milan and Rome), and the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague). Alongside quantitative analysis of the socio-economic situation in the three countries, from October 2016 to October 2017, multi-sited research activities (interviews, focus groups, design workshops) have been conducted, reaching out to different groups, including unemployed youth, precarious workers, vulnerable self-employed, welfare recipients, and non-European migrants.
In the context of Commonfare, Commoncoin has been prototyped as a complementary digital currency co-designed to serve the needs of Macao, and then of commonfare.net participants ("Commoners").
Since the Common sphere is systematically drained by conventional market forces, the Money of the Common is a currency designed to counteract this drainage of value by putting in charge Commoners themselves in the production and management of the money system they use: from working for a top-down centralised money system infrastructure, to participating in the governance of a bottom-up and de-centralised one.
How to actualise such an idea? The Macao collective, in concert with Commonfare researchers, co-designed a complementary digital currency for self-remuneration, also acting as a basic income provisioning system that rewards members’ political and operative engagement within Macao. The result has been the first instance of Commoncoin, based on what has been named the Social Wallet API, an application pro- gramming interface to run complementary digital currencies incentive schemes in a web app environment.
Accordingly, Commoncoin is collectively issued to reward contributions in a decentralised fashion on the basis of both labour and political participation to the management of the common good of the collective, i.e. Macao’s physical spaces and its techno-political agenda. At the beginning of each calendar month, there is a distribution of commoncoins to the various groups that form the Macao collective, a sort of quantitative easing for the people from the bottom-up. When a member works at Macao to support daily operations —such as maintenance of spaces, bar tendering and the like— s/he is paid for it with common- coins, either by Macao itself or from the groups that need labour to run their activities (for instance mounting a theatre stage). Those members who also participate to the he collective’s weekly assemblies can ac- cess a basic income in Euros with a convertibility ratio of 1:1, as they can cash out commoncoins gained by offering labour and taking part to the political life of the collective. The latter requirement is intended to discourage opportunistic and utilitarian behaviour. The revenue in Euros is generated through public events organised at Macao on a monthly basis, whose audience pays for entrance, beverages, etc.
In a nutshell, Macao conceived of Commoncoin as an internal digital complementary currency and basic income provisioning system in Euros for financing and remunerating biopolitical production, while discouraging hoarding and speculative practices. The co-design of a system such as Commoncoin by and for the users who self-remunerate themselves on the basis of commonly agreed upon rules is game-changing. And the impact on Macao members’ life and work conditions has indeed been significant, providing them an income for the enactment of their capacities to their autonomously selected aims.
Inspired by the Commoncoin co-design process, Macao members and the Commonfare project agreed to continue the experimentation in the context of the 2018 edition of the Santarcangelo Festival, the biggest performative arts festival in Italy, by implementing an ad hoc version of the digital complementary currency, named Santacoin. Santacoin is a complementary digital currency that has been designed to operationalise parts of the festival, to create a parallel economy within its blurring boundaries. In particular, Santacoin has been deployed as an agreement within the community working and assisting at the festival to use a digital complementary currency as a means of payment within the span of the festival. Santacoin could be spent to pay for goods and services, such as festival merchandising, tickets for shows, food and beverages at the festival restaurant and clubbing location, as well as wellbeing practices by "Body&Soul Caregivers", a group of local artisans who decided to provide their services as part of the Crypto Rituals.
Curated by Macao, Crypto Rituals was a collective performance enacted during the two weekends of the festival by bringing caring practices in the public space together with economics. The role of money in fostering either empowerment or destructive social relations was intentionally made visible and the per- formance explicitly framed as centring on cure and love for oneself, the other and our communities, as a radical action leading people to imagine new forms of social production and reproduction. Crypto Rituals crossed circular economy with community building to provide a performative space for the production of the Common.
To analyse Santacoin adoption and use by festival operators, artists and visitors, a team ethnography was conducted by members of the Commonfare project. Lead by a senior ethnographer and working with common research tools (observation and interview guides), the group consisted of a total of 8 researchers who alternated themselves in the different festival locations (at different time slots and weekdays), thereby developing a common understanding based on shared immersion across sites. Overall, findings show that the explicit thematization of the monetary dimension of living together allowed for a temporary space where people felt comfortable in experimenting with forms of cooperation and expressing socio-political visions alternative to current mainstream neoliberal perspectives.
Santacoin is the result of a long-lasting collaboration, a process bridging artistic performative interactions and research on monetary innovation that started years before and saw an important step in the 2017 festival edition, when several complementary currency projects including Commoncoin and Faircoin were presented to the local municipality, thereby increasing the awareness on novel ways to approach finance and the money system. Then in 2018, alongside developing Santacoin, Macao and the Commonfare consortium actively worked with local authorities for establishing in the shorter term the benefits of complementary currencies to the rest of Santarcangelo di Romagna, the small but renown medieval city hosting the festival. Besides the decision to broaden the adoption of Santacoin to the whole city (rather only festival-related locations) in the 2019 edition, local authorities considered the opportunity to increase the purchasing power of the poorest strata of the population, homeless people in particular, through a city issued complementary currency accepted by local businesses and repeatedly recirculated in the local economy.
Future opportunities and potential impact
Although both Commoncoin and Santacoin have been deployed on a centralised database and not in the form of a cryptocurrency flowing on a distributed ledger, the enabling technology —the Social Wallet API — is ready to implement this and other similar systems also in such a decentralised currency framework. Moreover, it worth mentioning that currently, on commonfare.net, Commoners not only receive a basic income in Commoncoin (https://commonfare.net/en/pages/about#commoncoin-and-social-wallet), but they can also create groups and group currencies to support the activities of their communities.
For more details, see:
General Intellect. 2018. “Commonfare or the Welfare of the Commonwealth.” In MoneyLabReader #2: Overcoming the Hype, 243–51. Amsterdam: Institute of Net Cultures. http://networkcultures.org/blog/publication/moneylab- reader-2-overcoming-the-hype/.
Fumagalli, Andrea and Emanuele Braga (eds.), 2015. La Moneta del Comune - la sfida dell’istituzione finanziaria del comune. Derive e Approdi: Milano.
De Paoli, Stefano; Anna Wilson; Marco Sachy; Francesco De Pellegrini. 2017. User Research Report and Scenarios, PIE News Deliverable 3.1. http://pieproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/PIE_D3.1_FIN.pdf last accessed 30 September 2018.
De Paoli, Stefano; Anna Wilson; Marco Sachy; Francesco De Pellegrini; and Stefania Ottaviano 2017. Reputation Mechanics, Digital Currency Model and Network Dynamics and Algorithms, PIE News Deliverable 3.2. http://pieproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/PIE_D3.2_FIN.pdf last accessed 30 September 2018
Roio, Denis and Aspasia Beneti, 2017. Reputation, Digital Currency and Network Dynamics, PIE News Deliverable 4.2. http://pieproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/PIE_D4.2_FIN.pdf last accessed 30 September 2018.
From the field to the fork: G.A.S. Tiburtino, an ethical and solidarity purchasing group in Rome
Author: Venere S. Sanna, Department of Methods and Model for Economics, Territory and Finance (MEMOTEF), Sapienza University of Rome
Case study type: Local initiative
Keywords: Solidarity/Ethical Purchasing Groups, food, Rome, Italy
‘Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale’ (G.A.S.) or Solidarity/Ethical Purchasing Groups, are collective purchasing organisations that form alternative food networks managed by a group of citizens (known as ‘gasisti’) who come together to buy food and other goods at wholesale prices and/or from small local producers, to be redistribution between members.
‘Gas Tiburtino’ was founded in 2001 by a small group of people that got in touch through the Internet, essentially beginning as strangers but uniting via a shared vision. In 2016 the size of this group was still relatively small, comprising 8 families and a total of 24 people. All members are Italians, and are mainly young couples with children.
The majority (90%) of the Tiburtino gasisti live or work in the eponymous neighbourhood of Tiburtina, and the nearby area of Colli Aniene. It is an informal, unregistered association, without offices, and usually the group meets at a member’s home.
G.A.S. generally do not use any specific technological tool, and in this case they do not use any internet platform. In the weekly routine of the GAS, members’ orders are made online and via telephone. The organisation collects money in cash at the delivery meeting, or via transfer into the GAS bank account, prior to placing a large collective order. The producer/s deliver/s the food/products to a member’s home, and all participants go to the address to collect their own part of the order. They save money, cutting the intermediary chain of supermarkets, and have the additional benefit of buying local/organic food. Sometimes a GAS collects money and pays for products in advance that will be “harvested” during the next season, thus contributing to the economic sustainability of the farmer’s production. Each gasista is in charge of collecting and placing orders for a specific product (vegetables, fruit, pasta, cheese, cleaning products etc.) and is therefore called the ‘referente del prodotto’ (‘product representative’).
Probably due to its small size, this GAS does not have a structured system of management. Activities are run according to the participants: anyone who wants to propose or organize something is free do so. Decisions are made by first consulting the other members, and are then taken if a majority approve. E.g. if members have to decide whether or not to start buying from one producer, somebody proposes them and they discuss. If enough people are interested then they will order from that producer.
This initiative was developed independently from any institutions, and emerged without the support of government actors. These kind of initiatives emerge, survive, and continue existing, thanks to the work and commitment of volunteers. The main stakeholders are usually private citizens and local producers/farmers. In Italy the lack of interference from regulatory bodies has probably contributed to their survival and flourishing.
The comparative assessment of European initiatives in Europe shows that in general, Solidarity/Ethical Purchasing Groups (GASs) do not have a high environmental impact, and tend not to score highly on innovation indexes, which are measurable in terms of GHG emissions.
However, they do perform reasonably well in economic terms, and in the Italian context they “play an increasingly important role in offering a survival opportunity to small farms, as they recruit them to reconstruct local food chains, while shielding (...) often family-run entrepreneurs from the worst effects of the financial crisis” (Grasseni 2014, pp. 188-189). They tend to be economically sustainable, because (i) they do not require a high initial investment, (ii) they require few running costs, (iii) they do not depend or rely on external financial sources and (iv) their management and organizational model is flexible. Moreover, most of them do not need to own or rent premises - their activity can be organized by mail or phone, and requires only periodic meetings that can be help in public spaces - and they rarely impose fees on their members.
Overall, GASs provide their members with financial savings, and prior research indicates that they “solve in a very effective way a growing problem of food security that the current financial and ecologic crisis has induced” (Grasseni 2014, p. 189). They also score well in terms of social capital and social inclusion.
In conclusion, due to the relative simplicity of their activity, GASs show a high potential in terms of reproducibility and transferability.
This research has been conducted between 2013 and 2016, in the framework of the EU funded project TESS (Towards European Societal Sustainability) (www.tess-transition.eu/)
For more details, see:
Celata F., Sanna V.S. (in publication 2019), A multi-dimensional assessment of community- based transition initiatives in Europe, Regional Environmental Change Special Issue “Sustainable transitions to low carbon societies: insights from European community-based initiatives”.
Celata F., Coletti R., Hendrickson Y. C., Sanna V.S. (2018) Community-based initiatives, active citenzenship and sustainability in Rome: a comparative analysis (in Italian) in Coppola A. e Punziano G. (a cura di), Roma in Transizione. Governo, strategie, metabolismi e quadri di vita di una metropoli, ISBN 978-88-99237-13-4, Vol. 2, pp. 363-374
Sanna V.S. (2018), Grassroots initiatives for sustainability transitions: community-wide impacts and economic functioning, Special Issue “Post-Growth Organization”, Management Revue, 29(4), pp. 349 – 380. ISSN: 0935-9915 DOI: doi.org/10.5771/0935-9915-2018-4-349
Celata F., Sanna V.S. (2014), Community activism and sustainability: a multi-dimensional assessment, Working Paper, Dip. Metodi e Modelli per l’Economia il Territorio e la Finanza, [online]
Building a collaborative economy platform to support cohousing initiatives: The case of Collaborative Housing Limerick
Author: Kim O’Shea, Interaction Design Centre and Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, University of Limerick
Case study type: Local initiatives
Keywords: Cohousing, Collaborative Housing, Community Action Group
The Collaborative Housing Limerick group formed in May 2018 and continue to meet on a monthly basis. The group aims to explore the opportunity and create a collaborative housing and/or cohousing model in Limerick, Ireland, as they collectively see the need for more accessible, affordable and community-led housing models in Ireland. This has become particularly relevant at present when a national housing crisis has exposed the issues surrounding developer-led housing initiatives that are pervasive in Ireland. This group’s focus is on sustainability and the use of renewable energy in their future homes.
This group is amongst the most active community-led housing initiatives in Ireland today. As such, they have created an online presence for both sharing knowledge and resources within the group, and publicising the existence of the group to a wider national audience. The Collaborative Housing Limerick group utilise a shared Google drive, an email subscription list, a dedicated website and a Facebook page. The use of these various technological tools for collaborative and coordinative purposes leverages the knowledge of the current core group regarding collaborative and coordinative tools. However, the use of these tools is dictated by personal preference, and does nothing to undo the uncoordinated and disjointed nature of the national collaborative housing community. Several other collaborative housing groups around the country have Facebook pages, but there are several that do not have an online public presence. For communication across groups and individuals at national level, many other platforms have been used, for example Loomio, Google Groups, a forum, but the discussions on platforms such as these are not constant and tend to flow when cohousing events are looming, but ebb when there are none. Going forward with this case study, as a PhD research case study, I hope to develop a platform to assist with collaboration and communication for the Collaborative Housing Limerick group, which would also allow for collaboration with other collaborative housing groups in Ireland.
Collaborative Housing Limerick is an interesting example of the collaborative economy as it is a local initiative, in the form of a community action group, that has identified a need for collaboratively created housing and volunteer their time to explore the topics of collaborative housing, cohousing and community, with their ultimate goal being to share a living space with one another. Collaborative Housing creates the conditions for other forms of collaborations to happen: community gardens, shared care of the young and elderly, shared transportation, shared energy schemes.
Currently, this group is self-funded whenever there is a need for financial contributions. The group meets on a monthly basis in various locations, which are free of charge for use. As the group is still at the exploration phase, there has been no need for any financial contributions. As this group is endeavouring to create a pilot cohousing arrangement in Limerick, they are researching various funding models and opportunities for pilot housing developments available in Ireland, including grants for energy efficiency. Finances have been a near-permanent topic of discussion at group meetings since the group’s inception due to the nationally high costs of property. They are researching and exploring a variety of avenues for potential financial assistance for their endeavours. The group are also in the process of creating a “Vision Document” which they hope will serve two purposes; firstly as a charter for members of the group to commit to, and secondly as a document used to gain outside support and assistance from public figures and institutions.
There are a number of potential impacts of this local initiative. The group are sensitive to the environmental issues involved in creating any sustainable, resilient housing model, in terms of both using “green” materials to build the homes, and the subsequent carbon footprints generated by the homes as they are lived in. The potential to receive a grant for energy efficient homes, coupled with the group’s own desire for the use of renewable energy, makes sustainability a necessity for this group going forward. Ultimately, they would like to create a cohousing community in the city centre of Limerick . There is a desire from this group to create a community, as opposed to just a housing development. The majority of the group are aged 35+ and have expressed a desire to rekindle a sense of community in their lives as this would be both advantageous to their current lifestyles, and as they age. Cohousing is currently not recognised as a standard model of housing in Ireland. Very few cohousing arrangements exist in the country, and as such there is little support both financially and legally for this endeavour. This group currently views these as significant hurdles to their endeavour, but if they were to navigate their way through the issues, it could have a significant impact. If this philosophy of cohousing became culturally normalised, it would make it far easier for any future cohousing group to organise and realise their own ambitions. At the Housing Ourselves conference in 2018, a meeting point for community groups in Ireland, the groups present noted that there is no singular example of cohousing succeeding in Ireland, and that the development of one exemplar project would pave the way for other groups as “the groundwork would have been done”. Culturally, this is not a model of housing that is recognised or widely accepted in Ireland, with the concept being misconceived as a “commune”. However, an exemplar project could be the turning point. Once this cultural shift to acceptance had occurred, it could encourage those who would not have actively sought such a lifestyle, but now can consider it on its merits as it a reasonable option for an alternative and sustainable way of living. In turn, governmental policy making could shift in its favour and become a self-perpetuating system.
At present, the research question in this study is “How could open source, peer-to-peer technologies be deployed, using co-design and collaborative practices, to enable sustainable solutions to the social, economic and environmental challenges we are currently facing with regard to housing?” This study began in May 2018 when the Collaborative Housing Limerick group first met, and is continuing to date as an ethnographic case study on collaborative housing in Ireland. I am taking an action research approach to this study, with the issues identified as the lack of: legal, financial, and social awareness, and support of collaborative housing models in Ireland. I have adopted the role of ‘participant-as-observer’ in the Collaborative Housing Limerick group, meaning that I am present at group meetings both as a group member and in a research capacity. I undertake participant observation while at the meetings, and I record notes in the form of meeting minutes and field notes. Meetings are held in various locations in Limerick City, on both weekdays and weekends.
As this is an ongoing case study, I only have preliminary findings, the most substantial of which is that while the topic of collaborative housing and cohousing is being explored by multiple groups in Ireland simultaneously, the findings and progress of each group are not public knowledge, which has left each group researching the same information to a great extent. There is little-to-no communication between the active groups in Ireland, which is one of the main factors influencing the direction of my research, towards developing a collaborative platform design. This study aims to highlight the issues surrounding community collaboration, longevity and success in relation to large-scale endeavours such as collaborative housing. I hope, in part, to address these issues with the development of a collaboratively designed, open-source platform which can be deployed both within communities as a collaborative and communicative tool, and to the wider network of national community action groups to aid with knowledge and resource sharing.
For more details, see: Kim O'Shea and Gabriela Avram. 2019. Housing Ourselves: An Exploration of Collaborative Housing from an Irish Perspective. In Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Communities & Technologies - Transforming Communities (C&T '19). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 295-299. DOI: 10.1145/3328320.3328397