4 February 2015

First international workshop on the sharing economy

Sharing economy: call for papers

4-5 June, The Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, The Netherlands

The sharing economy is a fast-growing phenomenon. People increasingly share their home, car, clothing or tools on Internet platforms such as Airbnb, Relayrides, BlaBlaCar and Peerby. In a strict sense, the sharing economy can be defined as consumers granting each other (“peer-to-peer”) temporary access to their under-utilized physical assets, possibly for money. In a broader sense, the sharing economy also includes peer-to-peer services (Uber, Lending Club, Taskrabbit, Helpling), product-service systems (Zipcar, Philips lighting) and redistribution markets (eBay, freecycling groups on Facebook) (Botsman and Rogers 2010).

Sharing practices are certainly not new, but the phenomenon is showing explosive growth concomitant with the advent of Internet platforms. For instance, Airbnb offers more than 1 million houses, Peerby has 100.000 members, and Uber is active in over 200 cities around the world. Sharing potentially has a lot to offer to society: it promotes the efficient utilization of physical assets, it reduces their environmental impact and facilitates new social contacts. Along with its rapid growth, however, the sharing economy has also come under fire. This criticism focuses in particular on unfair competition between platforms and regular companies, overrated environmental gains, the tendency towards monopoly and the erosion of workers’ rights (Schor 2014; The Economist 2015). In sum, sharing practices yield promises and problems, which only recently have become subject of scientific research.

This workshop aims to bring together researchers from all disciplines and regions to discuss scientific research on the sharing economy. Among the questions are:

  • What theoretical perspectives (e.g., economics, sociology, geography, innovation studies) help to explain the nature and growth of the sharing economy?
  • What are the economic, social and environmental impacts of the sharing economy?
  • What are the business models in the sharing economy and why do some succeed and others do not?
  • What are the governance modes of platforms and why do some succeed and other do not?
  • How do sharing platforms disrupt existing industries?
  • How can peer-to-peer sharing in consumption be applied in a business-to-business context?
  • Why is sharing more popular in some industries and in some localities rather than in others?
  • What are the institutional responses across industries and across localities?
  • What are motivations and characteristics of sharing economy participants?
  • What do sharing practices mean for the new product design?
  • Is there a new role for consumers in the sharing economy?
  • What is the relationship between the sharing economy and sustainability transitions?
  • Are we observing fundamentally new ways of innovation in the sharing economy (open innovation, grassroots innovation, institutional entrepreneurship)?
  • Does the sharing economy prepare the way for new forms of capitalism?
  • How does sharing affect inequality in society?


Send in your full paper or extended abstract (750-1000 words) to Koen Frenken before March 15, 2015. You will be notified about acceptance before April 1st, 2015.


Juliet Schor (Boston College) and Susan Shaheen (UC Berkeley)

Scientific Committee

Koen Frenken (Utrecht University & Lund University),
Juliet Schor (Boston College),
Susan Shaheen (UC Berkeley),
Bernhard Truffer (EAWAG & Utrecht University),
Wouter Boon (Utrecht University)

Local organizing Committee

Koen Frenken (Utrecht University & Lund University),
Wouter Boon, Toon Meelen, Peter Pelzer (all Utrecht University)

Special issue

We envisage the publish a selection of papers in a special issue.


  • Botsman, R., Rogers, R. (2010) What’s mine is yours. How collaborative consumption is changing the way we live (London: Collins)
  • Schor, J. (2014) Debating the sharing economy, Great Transition Initiative
  • The Economist (2015) The on-demand economy. Workers on tap. January 3rd.


Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, 

Strategic Theme “Institutions” at Utrecht University