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SIE interviews the OuiShare collective

OuiShare is a distributed non-profit and global community of entrepreneurs, designers, makers, journalists, researchers and citizens working to accelerate the shift to a collaborative economy.
Its mission is to explore, connect and promote the ideas, people and projects that contribute to the big transition this new social and economic paradigm that is emerging thanks to the internet.

OuiShare was born in January 2012 out of a Facebook group in Paris, and now counts 400+ members from 20 countries in Europe, North America and Latin America, contributing in English, French, Spanish, Italian and German. Among them, a passionate team of 30 connectors is now bootstrapping OuiShare and co-designing this collective adventure with the community.

Offline, OuiShare connect local hubs to foster collaboration and new ideas, by organizing events such as meetups, conferences and workshops. In 2012, around 45 events have been organized in 20 european cities: Paris, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, Munich, Brussels, … giving birth to local OuiShare communities in the process.
Online, they provide people from the community with a place for online conversations, and invite them to share their ideas and inspirations on OuiShare.net, a collaborative online magazine. Launched in July 2012, it now counts 120+ articles from 60+ contributors, published in French, English and Spanish, under a creative commons license.

You’ve asked to have this interview as a group, why?

Stan: Because we are a distributed organization. All contributors within OuiShare have a different perspective on the project since we are all involved at different level, in different projects, and with different motivations. Actually, all of us only know like 10% of everything that’s going on in OuiShare. Therefore a single interview would not reflect the whole project.
Flore: OuiShare is a collective adventure, spreading all over Europe with various levels of personal involvement but a strong sense of community. We answered to this interview using the online communication tools that enable us to achieve most of our work as a team, despite the distance.

How do you define the ‘collaborative economy’? What are some examples?

Albert: Most of the people will get in touch with the “collaborative economy” via “collaborative consumption” that describes the rapid explosion in traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping reinvented through network technologies on a scale and in ways never possible before [source: Collaborative Consumption]. With the experience on collaborative consumption people realize that the same cultural shift can be applied to the production side of the economy (sharing kwnoledge, tools, designs, fablabs, hackerspaces, etc.). To glue the whole collaborative economy (specially the projects that might challenge some of the incumbent industries and actors) P2P finances are the key (crowdfunding, P2P lending, etc.). In order to reach a broader audience the naming is always a crucial point and this is being discussed at the moment.
Stan: In short, the collaborative economy is a human-based economy, distributed economy.
Benjamin: I like Stan’s definition, and I would add that all this is taking off right now because of the internet and communities. It changes everything. We started OuiShare as an experiment because we felt that a deep transformation is underway, as the peer-to-peer and distributed structure of the internet is starting to reflect in real life. Technological possibilities and cultural shifts are creating 21st century alternatives to what has defined capitalism over the last century: large-scale industrial production, hyper consumption, financialization, proprietary knowledge and top-down organizations. A good way to illustrate the opposite paradigm is the car. Imagine a car that is locally produced through open source modular manufacturing, by a team who shares knowledge with an open community, relies on small-scale facilities (a makerspace) to build it, and leverages crowdfunding to fund part of the R&D. This car exist, it is built by a team called WikiSpeed. The owner of such a car could then share a ride on BlaBlaCar or Carpooling.com, and even rent it to surrounding people when he is not using it, with a P2P carsharing scheme. Jeremy Rifkin calls this “distributed capitalism”, I think it’s a good way to present it.

You’ve seen considerable growth in the last year. Can you tell us a bit about what motivated you to launch in January 2012, a bit about where you are now, and where you want to be next year?

Benjamin : I like to say that “we do not grow, we distribute”. OuiShare has developed in a very bottom-up and organic way. It started small in Paris with a few meetups and a bunch a people sharing ideas and knowledge in a Facebook group. Then as we got in touch with more and more people, some of them said “hey, why not organize a OuiShare event here? I’ve got a date and a place to host it -- sure, let’s go!”. And that’s basically how it happens!
Stan: Before Ouishare, I had been involved in ambitious projects such as the media website Owni.fr, which intended to reinvent journalism, towards more participative and open practices. In OuiShare the goal is not only to reinvent journalism, but also production, consumption, finance. We have more diversity. This first year was only a first round : we built the community trough events and the launch of our magazine. The next step is to experiment deeper how our ecosystem can work, economically but also in terms fo governance. We are not only looking for a business model, we are reinventing our own economic rules within the community. And this is very stimulating.
Flore: The enthousiasm all around and within OuiShare is impressive. What personnally convinced me to get more and more involved was our capacity as a group to keep going while allowing very diverse points of view to express. Il like the fact that OuiShare is an experimentation in itself : we demonstrate that a new kind of collaborative organization is possible. In early December, we organized our first “Tour de France” and we plan do the same in other countries next year. In 2013, we will also launch our OuiShare Fest, the first European conference on Collaborative Economy. Save the date : May 2-4 in Paris.
Benjamin: A new version of the website is also planned. But above all, we need to reflect on what we have done over the past year, try to get a little more organized, but keep experimenting, and helping people to jump in the adventure. We really want it to stay an open project, that will live with the coming and going of new enthusiasts and fresh ideas.

How can someone start participating in the OuiShare community?

Albert : MPRL (Meet People in Real Life - or at least via Skype) is the best way. OuiShare does not want to be an elite of any kind and one of the core values is to be a very incluse organization with members ‘ranging from traditional entrepreneurs (focused on metrics, VC, exit strategies, etc) to people who have decided to live without money and have been doing so for the last 3 years. OuiShare is not a community where we see to agree with each other but to be learn from every angle and opinion. When you want to be an active member of OuiShare your personal interests and abilities will define where and how you can help the creative community for the collaborative economy.
Stan : Concerning the magazine, we are really trying to create a 100% collaborative way of producing content. This means that anyone can participate at least by giving ideas and feedbacks during the whole editorial process. We are still experimenting a lot, but one key point is to have any post idea born inside our discussion tools, so that the process gets effectively collaborative and open all the way from the very beginning. The best way to start participating is thus to spend time on our discussion and coordination tools, giving a hand to others contributors, thus learning on the way on how to write a good story. In the end, we intend to build a decentralized newsroom where not only good writers can contribute, but everyone thanks to collaboration and mutual help.
Flore: People who want to get involved at the local level can join existing cities/regional groups, or create their own. First step is to take part or organize events to begin building a local community. We have also have several thematic groups, sharing news and ideas about the collaborative economy in the mobility / food / housing / production fields...

What does success look like, for a community like OuiShare?

Stan : We are trying to have impact, which can be achieved in many different ways. Being it online through spreading disruptive analysis, or offline meeting people and creating human connections within the community. The more people collaborate within Ouishare, the more impact we can create. Our goals pretty much rely on how we do things.
Albert : Success it to spread and accelerate the collaborative economy movement and to help the movement to survive the speedbumps (legal, potential negative metrics on GDP, etc.). Collaborative economy would still exist if OuiShare did not exist but we can help it to move faster specially by connecting the actors and local and global level. Success for OuiShare is also to carry out this mission while being a financially sustainable community with an indepedent and critic voice on the events and the media. Success is also to have fun while doing it!
Flore: I think we will be successful if we manage to show that a new system, built on collaboration and the commons, is viable and desirable.
Benjamin: Like Albert, I think success is people having fun while building an open and better world. I don’t see systemic change happening unless people enjoy doing it. How do we make this kind of change go viral? This is a key question.

How can Social Innovation Europe help?

Benjamin : First by meeting us in real life : come to the OuiShare Fest and feel the vibe :) Also, we are very young and lack experience in developing a global organization and brand. Feedbacks, experiences and practical advices on how to have the most impact in a sustainable way, would be a lot of help :)
Albert : Social Innovation Europe can help by including the socio-ecologicall innovations enabled by the collaborative economy (hacking a society based around purchase and ownership and making it more efficient and sustainable) as part of the SIE programmes. At this stage the role to play by SIE is not to lead but to facilitate the work of existing actors (such as OuiShare and many others). A partner state is a state form that enables and empowers the social creation of value by its citizens. It protects the infrastructure of cooperation that is the whole of society.


Albert is OuiShare Connector in Barcelona and collaborative consumption specialist; Stan is the co-editor of Ouishare.net and basic income specialist ; Flore and Benjamin are global connectors, with respective specialties being environnemental and social impacts of the collaborative economy, open manufacturing and crowdfunding.