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Urban Sharing: Sustainability and Institutionalisation Pathways

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Urban Sharing (Urban Sharing: Sustainability and Institutionalisation Pathways)

Période du rapport: 2020-03-01 au 2021-08-31

Research Problem and importance for society:
Urban sharing (manifested in the sharing economy) has lately resurfaced as a potential solution to multiple societal challenges faced by cities. It is an umbrella term for a great variety of organisational models that are transforming marketplaces and cityscapes, where goods and services are shared and exchanged. Urban sharing promises to reduce environmental impacts by putting under-utilised assets to work; to generate economic revenue from urban assets; and to improve social cohesion by connecting individuals via ubiquitous digital technology [1]. However, some commentators warn that there is little evidence to support sustainability claims of urban sharing [2, 3]. They maintain that awaited environmental effects failed to materialise, that economic benefits are not equally distributed and that there are concerns about public safety, privacy and health. But, urban sharing organisations (USOs) do not operate in a vacuum – their design, operations and sustainability impacts are affected by cities and the broader institutional contexts. Different institutions and urban actors may influence sharing in various ways in different cities. Yet, literature provides few insights into how USOs become institutionalised in diverse urban contexts [4], what role cities play in shaping the landscape of urban sharing, and how institutionalisation paths influence sustainability impacts of USOs. Urban sharing is a growing global phenomenon with the potential to dramatically impact the current economic paradigm and enhance sustainability in cities. However, with competing motivations among actors who promote urban sharing, the lack of evidence to support the sustainability promises and the limited theoretical understanding of their institutionalisation pathways in different urban contexts, there is an urgent need for a comprehensive analysis of urban sharing organisations.

The aim of this ambitious research programme is to examine, test and advance knowledge about design, sustainability of practices and institutionalisation pathways of urban sharing organisations across cities. Three inter-related objectives for the research are:
1. DESIGN: To examine how USOs are designed and operate and how they vary in diverse city contexts.
2. PRACTICES: To study the sustainability impacts of USOs and how they vary across cities.
3. PATHWAYS: To advance theoretical understanding of institutionalisation pathways of USOs in cities.
Since September 1, 2018 we have carried out three Mobile Research Labs in Amsterdam (spring 2019), Toronto (autumn 2019), and Shanghai (autumn 2020 online due to the Corona pandemic). In addition to desk-top preparations and online interviews (Amsterdam - 35, Toronto - 20 and Shanghai - 13), we organized workshops with stakeholders from the cities (reported here For each of the cities we produced a snapshot ( and a report (
Fieldwork for the Melbourne case is currently being carried out online, aiming to finalise the report by September 2021. In addition to Mobile Research Labs, a series of short videos about the roles of cities in the sharing economy have been produced:
We have also recorded and aired one podcast episode on e-scooter sharing, which was listened to more than 1,130 times ( With listeners from around the world, the podcast is in the top 10% of all podcasts globally. We have already published 16 academic articles and book chapters in leading scientific outlets ( one workbook for sharing organisations and one special issue on the Sharing Economy of the Journal of Cleaner Production.
The project website has received 11,000 visitors and more than 26,000 page views as of 18 March 2021.
Research Contribution:

Urban Sharing transcends state-of-the-art developments by advancing urban sharing research on its three dimensions including:
1. DESIGN: We have collected rich empirical data about design of business models of sharing organizations from 3 cities. Conceptually we proposed a prescriptive definition of the sharing economy. From this, four design principles were developed to guide the formation of the sharing economy business model framework. This research proposes a coherent design theory to support the conceptualization of sharing economy business models for sustainability. The associated business model patterns work further guides research on the design of sharing economy business models across cities and supports implementation among sharing platforms in practice. We have expanded our work on business models by conducting a study on organizational response strategies of sharing organizations to COVID–19.

2. PRACTICES: We have worked closely with companies to compare environmental impacts of different business models. We found that business-to-consumer models tend to exploit newer and smaller vehicles compared to peer-to-peer models, which results in lower environmental impacts on a per use basis. We also explored how different governance mechanisms by municipalities affect sustainability. For instance, an unregulated local market for accommodation sharing often leads to negative social and direct economic consequences for a city. In order to improve social sustainability performance of sharing organisations we, in consultation with stakeholders, have developed a first systematic framework that measures the social impact of sharing platforms across four aspects – trust, empowerment, social justice, and inclusivity.

3. PATHWAYS: In order to address the aforementioned negative impacts on cities from sharing organisations, we have developed a first comprehensive governance framework for municipalities to engage with sharing organisations. The framework is being now employed by several cities. We have also advanced frameworks for classifying institutional work of sharing organisations in creating and disrupting regulatory, normative and cognitive institutions (Josefine – could you please insert link to a blogpost about institutional work – I wasn’t able to find it – which made me think – do we have a search function on the website?).

Our research already creates impact in the society through our engagement with platforms and municipalities, researchers and civil society organisations across the world and our communication and dissemination efforts that all aim to foster sustainability in the society. We are already opening new horizons for research – a senior researcher will apply for an ERC grant in spring 2021 having been inspired by the empirics, conceptualisations and contacts established in Urban Sharing project.
Urban sharing team meeting with representatives of Amsterdam City
Screenshot of Snapshot and report from Mobile Research Lab in Amsterdam
Screenshot of Snapshot from Mobile Research Lab in Toronto
Urban sharing team in Amsterdam