Preventing Conflicts in Sharing Communities as a Means of Promoting Sustainability

Thomas Sabitzer, Barbara Hartl, Sarah Marth, Eva Hofmann, Elfriede Penz

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

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Abstract

The sharing economy is a new promising trend with many positive outcomes on society and the environment, as it provides potential for sustainable solutions due to the reduction of resource consumption and less waste. However, research and practice show that sharing comes with its own share of problems. People often act selfishly, and in worst-case scenarios try to take advantage of others without contributing to the shared good. To achieve the higher goal of sustainability, it is important that conflicts in the sharing economy are prevented, and a setting is achieved that allows people to easily behave in a cooperative and sustainable way. The present research examines which conflicts emerge in sharing communities (study 1) and community gardens in particular (study 2), and whether regulation can prevent conflicts in large groups. Two exploratory studies were conducted. First, a qualitative study with consumers and non-consumers of the sharing economy revealed that regulatory systems are perceived as important for preventing the exploitation of other community members, but also that cooperation should not be enforced with strict controls and punishment. Rather, problems should be discussed in a democratic group setting, rules and goals should be set up together, and trust should be built. Second, a questionnaire study with community gardeners in Austria confirmed these results, and showed that trust is related to less conflict in community gardens, while harsh forms of regulation are related to a potential for greater conflict. Additionally, the results indicate that soft forms of regulation are related to fewer relationship and task conflicts, better conflict resolutions, a high sense of community, and greater trust in the community. We then discuss how these findings can be used to regulate sharing economy activities and give limitations and directions for future studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 24
JournalSustainability
Volume10
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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