The Sharing Economy Is Here to Stay

The Sharing Economy Is Here to Stay

Once thought of as a craze for Millennials rejecting consumerism, the sharing economy is now a recognized movement that has seized the attention of the New York Times, the Economist and NPR, among others. The sharing economy refers to a new kind of economic model where underutilized products and assets—think cars, apartment or home space and even one’s time—are shared with others, valuing access to these goods over ownership. In Madison, early traces of the sharing economy can be seen in our long history of cooperatives. Current businesses like Community Car and Madison B-cycle and co-working spaces such as 100state and Sector67 are also part of the trend. Last year, Forbes estimated that people participating in this sharing economy would collectively earn $3.5 billion over the course of 2013. For the coming year, the sharing economy will be bigger, and the startups, small businesses and larger firms that consider the implications of this new economic model will have an advantage in capturing this new type of collaborative consumer. 

Estimated worth of the sharing economy, according to Danielle Sacks of Fast Company magazine

Number of Dane County TimeBank members

Number of hours exchanged each year on the Dane County TimeBank

Number of Madison B-cycle rides in 2013

Number of co-working space in Madison 

Number of workers using co-working spaces in Madison


One of the largest of its kind in the country, the Dane County TimeBank is a network of individuals who swap their time and talent to get things done. Your time, not money, is the currency here. Founder and co-director Stephanie Rearick gives us the skinny on how this fits in with the bigger picture.

What are common exchanges you see within the Dane County TimeBank?
Organizations recruiting people to help pull off events, transportation needs, medical transportation from rural areas, companionship among people with different abilities. There’s also a lot of pet care and babysitting.

How does timebanking play a role in the sharing economy?
That’s part of what we’re working on this year—how we pull it together and have each [aspect of the sharing economy] complement each other. I’m looking forward to working more on co-creation and co-production using timebanking.

Is Madison a place that can sustain a sharing economy?
Oh, yes. We have tons of advantages, including a rich history of cooperatives and community supported agriculture. We have a lot of things going for us. We kind of have a bent toward this kind of collaboration and relationships.

Do you see this sharing model turning mainstream? 
Yes. I think that it’s necessary as we see things tightening up—money, but also resources like clean water, food and energy.

What’s something the timebank is working toward? 
We are going to integrate more business functions that complement local companies and organizations. It will be a broader service than just time banking, like a cooperative economic ecosystem.


One of Madison’s most visible signs of the sharing economy is Madison B-cycle, the bike-sharing program where people can check out a bike for short trips around town. When it launched in 2011, many bike owners didn’t see a need for a membership-based bike-sharing program, says B-cycle’s Claire Hurley. But since then, Madisonians have come to look at B-cycle as a supplement to their existing transport methods. “We have a community of people that are excited about sharing,” Hurley says. “They’re early adoptors.” She was able to compare Madison B-cycle to other ride-sharing programs across the country at a conference in San Francisco last fall. “The thing that we really came away with was the importance of open data,” Hurley says, noting that B-cycle shares its rider numbers and other stats with the City of Madison, and the city reciprocates. “Those public-private partnerships are going to help sharing become more readily available and accessible to more people.”