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The positive power of the sharing economy

The power of the collective has been reignited by our online activity, where a new sharing economy is thriving. We list some of our favourite apps and platforms for social good…

In our increasingly digital world, it’s easier than ever for people to pick up their mobiles and access any goods or services they want, at any time of day. What’s more, we can buy or sell almost anything – be it a room for rent in our homes via Airbnb or a ride in our car as a Lyft driver.

The idea that we can use digital technology to share the things we own, or rent goods or services from others, is known as ‘the sharing economy’ and it’s a growing trend. Research from Warwick Business School shows that the sharing economy grew by 60% in the 18 months to July 2018. For 18-24-year olds, it is 78%.

We’ve seen how the sharing economy has revolutionised industries, such as the global impact Airbnb has had on the travel market and how websites, such as eBay, have influenced the way we shop.

However, there’s much more to the sharing economy than simply making money. It can also be used as a force for good; as a way for people to champion worthy causes and to share time, resources and ideas, as these platforms illustrate:


If you want to keep fit and also help older people in your community, then GoodGym is the answer.

It’s essentially a running club with a twist. When you sign up to GoodGym, you are assigned a ‘coach’– an elderly person in your area whose home you jog to on a regular basis, where you check in and see how they’re doing. Or, you can do a ‘mission’ run, where you run to a person’s home and then help with a one-off task, such as gardening or moving furniture. Groups can sign up too, and help out collectively at community projects like food banks and community gardens.

There’s no cost to sign up but there’s an option to donate £9.95 per month to keep the organisation running. Before you start, you also need to complete a background check and a short online training module. GoodGym is a great way to keep on top of your fitness and do something good for those who need it most.


This is a platform that connects people, charities and communities to support good causes. It was set up by a group of people who felt that the best way to grow community investment was by creating an online space where it’s easy to ask for, and give, help.

Charities and community projects can sign up and be matched with local people and businesses that want to lend a hand. While individuals can search for voluntary projects happening near to their area and on what date.

Businesses can use Neighbourly to either donate money or goods to a project, or to find staff-volunteering opportunities. Marks & Spencers use the platform to donate surplus food. Every M&S store is partnered with a nearby group, such as a community café, foodbank or homeless shelter that receives daily alerts to let them know when surplus stock is available.


Freecycle has been around for a long time and has a really old-school user interface, but don’t let that put you off. This not-for-profit website is all about keeping unwanted household items out of landfill and giving them a new lease of life elsewhere – the unofficial motto is “turning trash into treasure”.

With over 5,000 groups and almost nine million members worldwide, it’s free to sign up to and you can trade all sorts of items, from toys and furniture to household appliances and garden tools. The main rule is that everything you list on the site must be available for free, no money exchanges hands.

There are Freecycle groups located all over the UK. Sign up online to find the nearest one to you.


Two people sharing a car which car sharing apps such as BlaBlaCar aims to promote

If you’ve ever watched Peter Kay’s Car Share you’ll know about the concept of carpooling, where people drive to destinations together and share petrol costs.

BlaBlaCar is the real-life equivalent and is basically an online marketplace for car sharing. You go online and connect with potential passengers who can fill your empty seats and chip in for the petrol. Or, if you’re a passenger, you can find a driver heading to your destination. Not only does it help you save a few pounds, it also means fewer cars on the road, reducing harmful CO2 emissions. 

BlaBlaCar claims to save people up to 70% on inter-city travel. For example, a trip between Bristol and London can cost just £8, in comparison to more than £80 by train. The company also checks all its members’ identities to ensure they’re legitimate. It is a business though, so it does pocket 12% from every booking.


Did you know that the number of global smartphone users outnumbers the number of hungry children by 20 to 1? ShareTheMeal is a charity app set up by the United Nations World Food Programme to combat child hunger.

How does it work? Well, you download the app and every time you go in and tap to donate, you pledge 35p to feed a child for a day. You can see exactly where your donation is going and the difference you are making. You can even create a team of your friends and family and work together to fight child hunger.

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