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BCN Ciutat Digital

This is how a collaborative social project works

There are more than a thousand commons collaborative economy initiatives in Barcelona, such as Som Energia, Som Connexió and Som Mobilitat. The social and solidarity economy, which now represents 7% of Barcelona’s GDP and is a sector in the process of expanding, was the central theme discussed at the “How to launch a collaborative social project” meeting held on 23 October at InnoBA as part of the DSIPLAY cycle of digital social innovation experiences.

Those attending the event discovered several ways of launching a collaborative project and were able to exchange queries and opinions with entrepreneurs from the sector.


What is the collaborative economy?

But what do we mean by collaborative economy? According to Dimmons, a research team at the Open University of Catalonia led by the social researcher and expert in the field, Mayo Fuster, it “is a type of platform economy, that is, a collection of people distributed and connected through a digital platform, but with collaborative features: democratic and joint governance; a transparent, accessible data and technological policy; and, finally, a desire for social responsibility and impact, such as inclusiveness and environmental sustainability”.

Keeping to this theoretical framework, Vera Vidal, also from Dimmons, suggested that, depending on the combination of these features and the type of platform economy we build, one type of society or another will result. This is the basis on which the commons quality star applies.

Following this discussion, the Barcola group was created in 2006: a dialogue panel between Barcelona City Council and civil society for establishing which city model was to be built on the basis of digital platforms. The group meets up from time to time and many of its decisions are put to a vote on the Decidim platform.

What is more, this vision has been extended internationally between municipalities thanks to Sharing Cities. And Barcelona City Council and Barcelona Activa are promoting these economies through the InnoBAdora and Comunificadora incubation programmes and financial aid, as explained by Herminia Gil, the head of Socio-economic Innovation at Barcelona Activa, SA.


Collaborative enterprises and projects

The DSIPLAY event's attendees had the opportunity to find out about several examples of collaborative enterprises and projects. Such was the case with Van WooW, a non-profit cooperative dedicated to promoting responsible experiences in rural environments with the aim of revitalising underpopulated municipalities. Manuel Guisado, its co-founder, explained its platform-based cooperative model and highlighted the model of joint governance between members and users; a technological policy based on shared resources at Github; and a vision of shared production, where the community steadily improves the product.

Another example was the Barcelona Open Data Initiative, a platform that promotes and democratises the use of open data between small enterprises. According to Lourdes Muñoz, its founder, an economy can be generated based on open data and, in fact, this is the only way to avoid inequalities, with measures such as incorporating the gender perspective, so that women's needs were taken into account.

Barcelona Open Data believes in the importance of making projects sustainable and extendible, as is the case with the Open Data Lab they have created: a copy of the work carried out in Barcelona and now applied to cities such as Tarragona and Alcalá de Henares. As for the business model, Muñoz explained that the main source of funding were consultations and that profits were reinvested in the data centre's research.


Shared resources

Meanwhile, GlocalShare is a network of shared resources without monetary transactions where attention is paid to the needs and available resources in a neighbourhood, which are exchanged between citizens. GlocalShare's goal, as pointed out by its founder Jordi Madorell, is to become independent of monetary transactions.

GlocalShare is creating a knowledge bank to optimise every task and become increasingly efficient when offering and assessing services, as its ultimate goal is to move on from competitive exchanges in collaborative projects to take on more complex tasks, which will help to expand the project.

Finally, Carmela Serantes, the founder of The Gooodshop, told her story: an online shop offering solidarity and responsible projects seeking not just to help producers but also to incentivise slow and conscientious consumption. The shop currently has more than 600 ethically produced and circular products available, with social integration goals and 100% ecological traceability.


A growing sector

All these projects and enterprises highlight that a collaborative economy is possible and that, despite there still being a long way to go, it is growing and diversifying its models and becoming a stronger option every day.

Anyone interested in this sector can discover more about it at the upcoming Sharing Cities Action, taking place in Barcelona from 19 to 21 November, as part of the Smart City Expo World Congress.

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