One big phenomenon to emerge from the Great Recession is an ancient custom, a tradition transformed—for the better—by modern technology: The rise of the "Sharing Economy," which thrives locally and expands globally.
This contemporary form of bartering—picture tens of millions of people swiping and tapping the screens of their smartphones and tablets, to exchange countless goods and services—is immune from economic booms and busts.
It is a free association of individuals assigning value to their respective items and intellectual property—without exchanging money.
According to the 2015 "1099 Economy Workforce Report," commissioned by venture capitalists and Stanford University alumni, 39 percent of sharing-economy workers are ages 18-24.
If you include workers in the 25-34 age bracket, this group is 68 percent of the sharing economy—or over a third of all U.S. workers. As such, the Sharing Economy is neither a fad nor a fanciful niche; it is, instead, the future. What's more, this particular model is (so far) immune from financial depressions and onerous recessions.
The rapid growth of the Sharing Economy is separate from arguments about its stability. There may be volatility along the way, but, at its core, this practice—the custom of bartering—is universal and is said to date back to 6000 BC and Mesopotamian tribes.
Nowhere is this medium of exchange more timely than among college and university students worldwide.
As this post from a Program Manager at Microsoft demonstrates, college campuses are an ideal setting for a community unto itself—a decidedly self-contained section of residential and student life—where members may "trade with trust."
The author says:
"Regardless of the promises and hype of the sharing economy, students are the glue that holds together a vision of the future. It is their conviction that can help create a college campus and a world where people can use their time, resources, and money more effectively."
Viktor Fenyves, co-founder of Swoppler, which is an app that enables communities to barter (or "swap/swop") with confidence, seconds this sentiment. He elaborates:
"College students are rich in goods, though they may be 'poor' relative to their cash flow. The strength of the Sharing Economy is that it adds value to those assets students already have or seek to possess, including textbooks, music, apps, clothes, games, travel, transportation, and tutoring and test preparation services, among many other things."
Gamers are another beneficiary of this shift because, according to this detailed article ("Arbitrage And Equilibrium In The Team Fortress 2 Economy") from an economist-in-residence for a major game company, there is a situation "in which barter still prevails even though the volume of trading is skyrocketing and the sophistication of the participants' economic behavior is progressing in leaps and bounds."
Fenyves agrees with this conclusion because "it proves that even the most advanced forms of technology and users of the same—games and gamers, respectively—flourish in the Sharing Economy."
Given the diversity of users, and based on the thoughts of credible experts across a variety of disciplines, barter is an attractive alternative for assigning—and enjoying—value to everything from intellectual skills to formal possessions.
Swap or barter with enthusiasm because, as the numbers show and the writers agree, the Sharing Economy is here to stay.