Transition to a sharing economy

April 20, 2013

I’ve been working on a book for the past years on and off. It is about why art is important and what its worth is outside of an economic one. Lots of the posts in this blog have been exploring this topic (see, for example the categories art and the market or art and healing).

The deeper I go into it, the more I see that it is not an isolated issue, that the changes needed and indeed happening in the arts are changes happening in every sector and will shake this whole society to its roots.

That is why it feels on topic to talk about an amazing TV program I saw here in Holland this week. Here is a link if you are Dutch. It was called ‘Transitions’ and addressed the present crisis and the creative initiatives happening at grass roots level to come out of it. Actually the projects in the program were not about ‘coming out of a crisis’ but creating a new way of living in society.

The main focus was on Jan Rotmans, professor of Transition studies in Rotterdam. He says that in Holland there are maybe 10,000 creative people who are thinking and acting in a completely new way,, outside the existing paradigm. They are the tippers (ie causing the society to tip into a new way of being),  and the thinkers so far outside of the box that the box doesn’t even exist.

Rotmans says we are in a crisis that is different from any before, that this sort of crisis happens once every 100-150 years, and

it isn’t that we’re living in an era of change, but in a change of eras.

Briefly, this is a deep  and far reaching systems crisis- we are in a transition period between a consumer society and a sharing society.

The program focused on 5 different projects each in a different sector- healthcare, energy, urban design, building, and mobility.  For example, the neighbourhood care project (Buurtzorg) now in every city in Holland and soon to be picked up by the US, Sweden, and Japan. Jos de Blok’s simple idea is to put the responsibility for care and the organisation of care  back into the hands of the professionals who do it,and cut out managers and middle managers. It is based on small local groups of nurses and social workers who hire and fire, manage their schedules, and pay system etc. This saves money and  improves care. And it works.

Another project brings people who want transport together with those who are offering it – a new kind of carpooling, but via internet. Poeple make a profile, there is a feedback system, the payment goes via the site. (Toogethr.nl  – founder Martin Voorzanger) Voorzanger says,

the trend is toward trust not only being a condition for a sharing economy, but the new currency as well.

If people increasingly barter, trade, rent- they take their consuming into their own hands instead of buying from big companies. then this will be the real economy and we’ll stop measuring in terms of economic growth.

The new values emerging in all these initiatives are trust, connection, community building, self sufficiency, sustainability.

So yes, it is crisis, and at the same time it is an incredible opportunity to build new ways of relating to each other, using energy, living in neighborhoods, taking care of each other, and getting what we need in terms of objects and services.

The arts too have a role to play in this transition-  as tools to assist and catalyse transformation in times of change.

So I’ll be writing more about this topic in future posts, and hopefully one day gather it all together in a book to give hope and inspiration to everyone whose heart has been touched by music, painting or other arts. And whose heart, like mine,  is breaking when they see how marginalised and commercialized the arts have become in this soulless society we’ve all created together.

We are capable of better, I know it.

12 Responses to “Transition to a sharing economy”

  1. Wonderful, informative piece! I look forward to reading more as I am very much in favor of a sharing, caring community. Thank you, Sarah! Next stop: the moon and the stars!

    • Sarah Zoutewelle Says:

      Thanks Annie, I hope to write more as I learn more. Your take on community would be interesting since you have to keep building it from scratch as you go, don’t you?

      • Well, Sarah, not from scratch. I assimilate myself into the existing community quite easily. Wherever I go I find libraries, thrift stores, places I can give my time and gently used items. I’ve donated household goods, food and clothing in Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, California. Volunteer work in many places also. In doing so I am contributing to the good of all in my own way. And, of course, my rewards are great: wonderful friendships, lifelong memories, networking and sharing.

      • Sarah Zoutewelle Says:

        Totally inspiring! thank you.

  2. Really interesting, look forward to reading more. How small were the groups of health professionals the programne taljed about/ how many people were they covering?

    • Sarah Zoutewelle Says:

      thanks for commenting. The groups looked to be about 6-10 nurses. I don’t know how many people they were covering, but it seems very localized. So I”d guess that it would be several neighoborhooods as opposed to a region.

  3. Jim Beckta Says:

    Hi Sarah,

    it’s been a while.

    A few years ago I watched a Youtube video called Starlings over Gretna, Southern Scotland. Masses of birds flying together in beautiful patterns. And wondered how they were able to do it.

    We will eventually be able to do that too. And it will be our lower chakras, our bums, where the unity will happen. And then economies, health care etc. will follow suit.

    The image of the forest. Above ground, individual trees and shrubs, each alone. Below ground, they are all working together with the fungi, bacteria, nematodes and the rest of it.

    For the past five years I have been working with newly-arrived refugee families, setting them up with postage stamp gardens. Very powerful stuff. Learning a great deal from them. Recently, our staff and staff from a local aboriginal community agency have been getting together in a writing exercise. And magic like I haven’t experienced since Findhorn is happening. A lot of it beneath the forest floor.


  4. decorartuk Says:

    Thank you for sharing (there you go – SHARING!) this, I think it’s a very uplifting post as we all seem to know that something’s wrong, yet we don’t know what to do about it… It was really great to hear that there already are people who will start a “revolution”.

    • Sarah Says:

      thanks K, I think there are positive things all over if you look for them. And once you start seeing them, you see them everywhere. Just check the web under’ sustainable’ for instance. There are all kinds of pioneering things being done with energy, healthcare, art, community building, food,farming, etc.

      > New comment on your post “Transition to a sharing economy” > Author : decorartuk (IP: , 78-61-112-33.static.zebra.lt) > E-mail : decorartuk@gmail.com > URL : http://decorartuk.wordpress.com > Whois : http://whois.arin.net/rest/ip/

  5. Cat Says:

    Hello Sarah,

    You might well have come across this project but in case not, Lucy Neal is creating a book called Playing for Time about the place of the arts in Transition (with as far as I know a UK focus). Here’s a little introduction from her; might be worth you keeping an eye on this:


  6. Hi Cat, thanks for this link. I am so pleased to hear of Lucy’s book, it is close in concept to mine but the context is different. I really like where hers is going.
    I followed several links from there and stumbled on Vivid’s posts, similar to yours. It seems that there are more people feeling alienated from their previous (career) paths and looking for more meaningful work/lives. So glad to know we are all out there.

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