What started as an initiative spearheaded by a loosely connected group of social innovators across various countries, has become a phenomenon. A few years ago, OuiShare was seen as one of, if not the leading think tank (or rather ‘do tank’) on the Sharing Economy and their OuiShare Fest, as the can’t miss international event on the topic. However, this perception was somewhat off-base because the vision and work of OuiShare has always had a much broader, more ambitious, and noble objective. Namely “to build and nurture a collaborative society by connecting people, organizations and ideas around fairness, openness and trust.”
The third OuiShare Fest is quickly approaching on 20-22 May at the Cabaret Sauvage in Paris’ Parc de la Villette. As always, the Fest will be an international affair and even more so this year with a big jump in participants from Asia (e.g. Myanmar, India, Singapore, etc), MENA and a continued strong showing from participants from South America. They’ll also welcome speakers whose work is making a more collaborative society a reality, including Freelancer Union Founder and Executive Director, Sara Horowitz and Crowd Companies Founder Jeremiah Owyang.
With the third edition of the Fest just around the corner, I spoke with Francesca Pick, OuiShare’s International Community Connector & Co-Chair of the Fest, about this year’s Fest and how OuiShare continues to evolve:
How big will OuiShare Fest be? How has it grown?
We have about 1,500 people coming over the three days. For us we’ve obviously thought about the question of growth. For us it’s important that it remain intimate. I’ve been to many mega conferences and I’m not a big fan of that. You feel anonymous. So for us the aim is to create something that has a community feel where you can meet most everyone during those three days. We’re more focused on creating quality rather than quantity.
What about OuiShare more generally? What other initiatives do you have underway?
Three years ago, OuiShare Fest was our only big project, but now we have lots of projects going on and happening in different places. So, our community has definitely grown. In October we launched our official memberships because people were really asking for that. It’s a free, open registration and we now have 2,000 official members, from across 30 different countries, in which we have local communities. Since last Christmas, we now also have a 2nd official non-profit structure in Spain. Soon we’re going to be creating one in Germany as well. Our biggest new project is called POC21 which is connected to the climate conference COP21, and taking place this August outside of Paris. It’s an Open Source Sustainability Accelerator, but we’re also calling in an Innovation Camp where 12 different projects will work together, prototype, and so on for 6 weeks to develop and build solutions that can help foster lifestyles that are open source and help to solve climate issues.
Another project we’ve launched is Sharitories, which actually started in Italy, now has some people working on it in Bordeaux and has expanded to some other countries. It’s a project to develop a toolkit to help cities and regions implement Collaborative Economy sharing systems locally. We’re trying to work together with specific municipalities to help them implement these concepts.
Has the way OuiShare defines itself over time gotten broader? So moving beyond the Sharing Economy as it’s narrowly defined to fostering collaboration in general?
Actually, OuiShare has always been defined in the broader sense. We’ve always been talking about the Collaborative Economy. In the beginning that’s what connected us and interested us all. We saw that everyone involved was more concerned about the broade
r picture. We’ve taken this broad view, which is really structured around 4 to 5 main pillars, including Collaborative Finance, Collaborative Production, new types of governance in organization, open knowledge and education, and Collaborative Consumption, which is really just a small part of the picture. What is really great is that now the diversity of our projects is showing a focus multiple pillars. Sustainability is a new area we’ve always cared a lot about as well, but were looking for a tangible project to do, which we’ve now begun. We’re actually shifting our focus now on the Collaborative Society, where the Collaborative Economy is simply a step towards this broader vision.
In the OuiShare Fest all of those broad concepts are incorporated. And what is really cool is to see the evolution over the years and how these subjects are being treated differently. So, for example, the first year of the Fest, it was ‘euphoria’, with people being really positive. But now this has evolved and we’re really focusing on the critical questions that are controversial and really need to be solved. We want to make sure we have those conversations.
How are the local OuiShare communities engaging with each other outside of OuiShare Fest?
We’re letting local communities decide how they want to engage. Whether they do more offline events such as local meetups. We have a couple different people who we call community connectors that are sort of trying to engage with different communities, create connections and be the nodes that bring together the communities. They help us create the bigger picture of what everyone is doing.
What are your aspirations for OuiShare?
What is really at the core is the most active members, the connectors and the community and empowering them to do what they’d like to do. Obviously our members are people who help create social change, are people who want to find new and innovative solutions to issues we have as a society, but also want to create businesses (around their areas of interest and passion). OuiShare is really a platform to help empower people.
If you’d like to attend OuiShare Fest next month on 20-22 May, you can still get your tickets here.