From sharing to caring

Photo: Joerg Schoolmann

The role of youth in the context of the climate emergency

Young people are acutely aware of the threats the climate emergency poses. They are the ones entering the streets, hold corporations and governments to account. and contribute significantly to the heated discourse. Especially young people from underserved communities and backgrounds will be affected by climate change and the increased costs of living and dramatically rising energy costs. While the economies across Europe still try to recover from the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine has shifted the attention of the public once again from much needed social innovation and efforts to create more social cohesion. Whilst the climate emergency is complex and can be overwhelming it is worth exploring opportunities on local level with young people at the forefront of developing new ideas and potential solutions. Additionally, the (new) roles of different actors from the public and private sector should be considered. One of the key aspects for all approaches seems to be a change in understanding individual responsibility to be more careful and considerate using available resources – or in other words: We need a shift from a sharing to a caring economy, where resources are also used for the benefit of those who are affected the most.

The role of technology

Not surprisingly, disruptive, technology based business models have been considered to offer easy access to markets, providing new opportunities also for underserved communities to generate income and help using resources more efficiently. The celebrated „New Work“ discourse had to make room for a much more critical debate which highlighted the legal issues, access to social security, violations of regulations, i.e. in the hospitality sector and for taxi industry. The downside of the Gig Economy has become subject of a heated debate across many disciplines ranging from law via business economics to ethical considerations. Despite the negative side-effects, the sharing economy offers opportunities for the young which are rooted in a shift of values and a new understanding of a need to change how we interact and do business with a view to a more inclusive and sustainable way of life. There is plenty of evidence that trust in technology based solutions is not justified without corrective measures from lawmakers. The cost of living crisis is exacerbated by rising rents in areas attractive for tourists. Larger companies dominate the market for sharing assets making it more difficult for smaller, local initiatives to become sustainable. However, such technology based business models proof that there is an interest in sharing assets and resources which have the potential to reduce the carbon footprint, offer affordable access to locally produced food and alternative forms of transport. Local bike rentals and repair initiatives, car sharing and community gardens may serve as example for such initiatives. For young people such alternative ways of thinking about buying local and using rental and sharing services has become a way of life – sometimes out of economic necessity, sometimes with a sense of living a more sustainable way of life.

Focus on local

A shift of values as well as a more social and ecological attitude is necessary to address the huge challenges the climate emergency presents. This requires a shift towards more socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable programmes support the young to develop such a mindset through leading by example. First and foremost it should be mentors, coaches, programme designers as well as policy makers, public and private donors to focus on programmes which intend to find solutions for the multi-faced challenges we all experience already today. All involved actors need to experiment, test, implement and evaluate the outputs and outcomes of local strategies and programmes which can address the most pressing issues. It is fair to say that no-one has solutions at this point in time. But through collaboration on local level and an open exchange of ideas and potential solutions across Europe we might identify ways toward a more just and resource-saving way of life.

What we already know is that anonymous corporations will very likely focus on generating profits, which is still an acceptable way of doing business. Nevertheless, we need a shift from sharing to caring ways of doing business. The photo above illustrates what we already see on a larger scale: Resources and assets can be shared but only if users treat them as if they were their own a mentality of caring can develop which will allow for easier access to available resources such as means of transportation, tools and machines necessary to do business and last but not least human resources. In the context of NEETs research indicates quite clearly that the most successful and promising intervention help to build external resources for their beneficiaries. To support building such resources community managers, mentors and coaches can play a very important role. It would be naive to assume that just the implementation of community based initiatives will lead to promising outcomes. As support organisations we need to invest into new forms of supporting staff, such as coaches, trainers and volunteer mentors through adequate forms learning together. From there a new dialogue with policy makers and institutional donors can ensue. Last but not least, as support organisations and researchers we should be willing to learn from the young through open dialogue and design and implement programmes which make it easier for them to build a future – based on caring for each other rather than just sharing.

Joerg Schoolmann, Guillem Aris; autoocupacio, Barcelona


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Rechene, S. T., Silva, M. E. and Campos, S. A. P. (2018) “Sharing Economy and Sustainability Logic: Analyzing the Use of Shared Bikes,” BAR – Brazilian Administration Review, 15(3). doi: 10.1590/1807-7692bar2018180026.

Spiess-Knafl, W. (2018) You had only one job. Transforming social security systems into the digital working age.Study for NEOS Lab & ELF.


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