Can the sharing economy drive social change? Learning from Baynatna, Berlin's Arabic library
Inga Treitler (Anthropology Imagination LLC/University of Tennessee)
Paper short abstract:
Surplus linked to shortage is a driver in the sharing economy worldwide. But is it also a driver in society at large? In Berlin we meet a group of literature professionals and students - refugees from conflict zones - who have co-built an Arabic library sharing space with the Berlin State Library.
Paper long abstract:
Berlin is known as one of Europe's most vibrant and experimental startup capitals. The streets are full of evidence of the spirit of a sharing economy, if that means commercializing the possibilities for collaboration: We-Work and Deutsche Bank co-working real estate in high rent districts; Betahaus and other incubators where new businesses are explored and built; cars, bikes and scooters for sharing via smartphone app parked at all the curbs and city squares. But the recent three years of newly arrived refugees fleeing extreme violence have highlighted the place of social enterprise within the sharing economy and may push the boundaries of our knowledge about agency for social change that the sharing economy creates. One such social enterprise is Berlin's only Arabic Language Library. Baynatna is translated from Arabic as "between us." It is the innovation of literature students and professionals who fled Syria's violence, and is a joint undertaking with a network of Berlin's social and educational institutions. Baynatna may offer a new model for ways of bringing together and redistributing society's surpluses, in the face of an overtaxed State. Can the sharing economy fill the gaps? And is agency for change granted willingly by the State? And even where not, is evidence of change visible in other forms? The paper follows Baynatna from its original spark to the visions for the future, and analyzes it as a model of a new way to respond to societal need.
The sharing economy: sharing with whom, sharing what and sharing for what purpose?