Generation Share, by Benita Matofska and Sophie Sheinwald, is a beautiful book that tells the stories of a wide variety of change-makers taking part in the sharing economy. I’m very partial to people’s stories, so I was excited to have it in my hands anyway, but it felt really personal even if I’m not in it. As a Millenial myself, I’ve been for a long time part of the generation that kickstarted it all, when a mixture of the post-crash economic circumstances and a disaffection with a world of striving for more made us all more aware of what truly mattered for us, sending us on a journey to rediscovering a way of life long abandoned.
Still, Generation Share is intentionally misleading a title, I believe, for no generation can claim ownership over the movement. It may have started with mine, of which 73% was an early adopter of the mindset and lifestyle of the sharing economy, but now it is 28% of the whole population, and the book tells stories of people from children to Boomers and everyone in between. One of the stories I have found the most interesting (although I loved every single one of them) comes early on: the 72 years old social media manager of TrustedHousesitters, the global sponsor. It struck me for one particular thing she said: “for some people, it’s a leap of faith, but they soon realise the world is full of good people who want to connect and build trust”. It struck me for the sadness I feel at the world we live in. While I can’t be a spokesperson for my generation, I believe it’s a sentiment shared by many.
Matofska’s revelation about the sharing economy came while at the One Young World Congress in 2010, sharing a stage with two figures as not alike as Bob Geldof and Archbishop Desmund Tutu. Sharing some of her own story in the introduction, as it’s intimately linked to the desire to tell everyone else’s in the book, she recounts how she was lead to that stage by disaffection with the corporate world after its promises were shown empty by the global economic crisis. My generation, which includes those born between 1984 and 1996, would have had some already in their first few jobs after or instead of university, and people still studying who would approach the world of work without much hope in it, and either cynical resignation or a strong drive for change.
As the recent rising to fame of Greta Thurnberg shows us, this drive has trickled down to Generazion Z too, and it seems it’s here to stay.
A number of older change-makers features in the book, and they are an important part of the movement, especially because they bring with them the knowledge, wisdom and experience that only living can bring. However, moving from page to page it is striking how many young faces you see, and one of the interviewees (Maeva Turdo of Social Bar) suggests that perhaps that’s because we aren’t set in our ways yet. One could argue we are set in our ways, but our way is flexibility. Overall, there is a sense in the book that we are, young and old, all moved by an inner quest for community and relationships. As the Catholic Church just celebrated Trinity Sunday at the start of Sharing Week, it’ll come to no surprise to our Catholic readers (and those sharing the liturgical calendar with us) that humans appear built for connection and interdependence, but I can see how it can appear ground-breaking for people who are used to the homo economicusof the variant of liberalism that has been dominant in the past 20-30 years. It is, however, the people of other forms of liberalism we have perhaps forgotten, and the alternative economic views of the world.
Matofska relates that the reason for writing this book was to showcase the change that is already happening but is often unseen, leading to people not challenging the cynical worldview that change is possible, something the team at Good Works is entirely sympathetic too, and why we started Good Conversations. What is the most inspiring in the book, though, is the relatability of the people portrayed: none of them is a celebrity with millions to dispose of, and many started with very little. Yes, some things like The Collective are catered to a section of society with a high disposable income, but some of the projects are happening in the streets of Mumbai and Brighton youth centres with pizza on the walls. Knowing one of the people interviewed personally, it really drives it home: it’s ordinary people, with ordinary lives, changing their sphere of influence with what they have.
Good Works as an organisation really overlaps with this, as we exist to educate and empower young people to begin their careers with a strong sense of their values and how to live them out in practice, so that they can harness their leadership skills to foster change, whether as intrapreneurs changing companies from within, or entrepreneurs changing the market with their own companies and everything in between, including families where there is a primary carer doing the very valuable unpaid work that we so often take for granted when analysing the state of the economy. We are part of the sharing economy both at an organisational level, and at an individual one, by virtue of living out Catholic Social Teaching (here’s an article that goes into more details about Catholic Social Teaching and the Sharing Economy), so we are proud to support The People Who Share and this book (released this week) this Global Sharing Week (and beyond).
“Generation Share” by Benita Matofska and Sophie Sheinwald (IBSN 9781447350101) is published by Policy Press (Part of Bristol University Press). Available at www.policypress.co.uk