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The Third Economy Is Awakening

on 15 August 2010 - 12:10pm


"Manifestos have a way of crystallizing movements and galvanizing folks into new patterns of behavior," says Stephanie Smith, a Harvard-trained design architect, social entrepreneur, and much more. She has a rare kind of talent that shines where alternative forms of community, radical economics and social technologies overlap.


Stephanie Smith is both a theoretician and activist of the "third economy" that she defines as a group-based resource-sharing economy. She is a member of the editorial advisory board of, the most important hub of the rapidly growing movement of people who share resources for co-creating real value that can be used by many.


Along with the open source movement and the commons-based peer production, this emergent economy is a key challenger of the economic status quo dominated by the private expropriation of common resources. We, at élan, are inspired by the work of Stephanie,, and all who work in the third economy, in which we recognize key elements of a new mode of production and distribution, free from the logic of the Wall Street.


In a recent interview, Stephanie said, "make these informal resource-sharing behaviors one notch more formal. Give them a name – Third Economy, and let people know that when they share resources as a group in order to save money and build deeper community, they’re actually participating in a structured, economic system that has value and meaning."


Another notch in raising the collective cosnciousness of a movement occurs with the birth of its manifesto that gives higher resolution to its key tenets, principles and practices. Don't take me wrong; manifestos don't create movements but when the movement is ready, the manifesto appears. A famous declaration by two German intellectuals in the 19th century, the Communist Manifesto did not create the workers movement, it was the movement that called the manifesto into being. A century closer to ours, André Breton's Surrealist Manifesto did not create the surrealist movement, but the other way around.


It seems, now is the time for the sharing movement to give itself a manifesto, and the folks at do it in style by inviting you to contribute to it. We encourage our communit memebers and visitors to look up the work in progress and their voce on the page where the following paragraphs originally appeared.



Towards a Sharing Manifesto


The resource-sharing movement is building, but to get it to the next level (where sharing is a natural, easy part of our daily lives) we need more people to dive in and start doing it. The more people do it, the better we’ll get at it, and the more incentive there will be for entrepreneurs to develop products and services to help us do it even better.


Manifestos have a way of crystallizing movements and galvanizing folks into new patterns of behavior. Remember Obama’s Yes We Can? That was a manifesto.

I think it’s time for a sharing manifesto.


Here are notes towards a few manifestos I’d like to see written:


Dear Oprah… We recommend that you hire a community expert. You’ve got Dr. Phil for marriage, and Suze Orman for finance, and experts for diet, exercise, spirituality and more. Why not community? Gwyneth Paltrow (GOOP), I’m talking to you, too. And in a similar vein, Barnes & Noble, why no ‘community’ section in the bookstore?


Dear Bank CEO… Be forewarned, we are moving beyond you. A grass-roots movement is building. We’re creating a new economic system that is supportive of community. We’re creating a user-controlled, community-centric, localized, relationship-based model of exchange that utilizes economic tools that have been with us since biblical times. This is a community-based resource-sharing third economy. It’s economy-as-ecosystem, with a decentralized, emergent character and no central point of control. It’s created and implemented by the people who use it, not by a handful of bankers on Wall Street like you. It puts economic power into the hands of the people, to use to strengthen their families and their communities; and to save money (and even make money) in the process. Be forewarned…


Dear Entrepreneurs Looking for the Next Big Thing… This is it. We are what you’ve been waiting for. We need better online and “offline” tools. Better products and services. Get in the game. Enough said.


Dear Social Scientists… We need a standardized definition for community. What is it? How does it work? Is it a noun (a place) or a verb (a behavior)? How do I know when I’m doing it? ‘Touchy-feely’ and vague definitions simply don’t cut it anymore. Community is too important to us as a species. Let’s dig deeper into the science of community; its causes, its effects, and how things like resource-sharing contribute to strengthening it.


Dear Local Governments… Sharing is too hard. We need you to make sharing easier. We need code changes, and zoning law revisions, and more. Please don’t force us “off the grid.” We want to stay where we are and make our existing communities better. You can help.


Dear Costco… We recommend that you launch a “shared” buying club to incentivize sharing. Sanction the thousands of informal buying clubs that have formed to save money by divvying up your bulk items. Bring us into the fold. Your brand and your business model will be the better for it. Wal-Mart and, you need to dive into the 'sharing' space, too.


Dear Facebook… You call that sharing? We think you could be doing so much more to encourage true connection and communal cohesion. How about facilitating cross-generation dialogue between our wise ‘elders’ and our imperiled youth, for instance? For good or bad, you are our current caretaker of social and communal life. If you don’t do it, who will?


 Author:   Stephanie Smith