Forget Silicon Valley: the North West’s city regions can become era-defining sharing economies


HomeTownPlus’ Mike Riddell makes the case for the sharing economy to boom in its rightful home- the birthplace of the industrial revolution and the home of cooperatives; the North West.

In Silicon Valley, San Francisco, billions of dollars have been poured into a handful of tech start-ups, most notably Airbnb and Uber – that have made their fortunes despite owning no hotels or taxis- but instead creating businesses based on people creating and sharing goods of value to them.

The media were drawn to these organisations, and they soon became synonymous with the sharing economy.

However, as the money rolled in, the communitarian element rolled out. Exploiting peer providers, purposely breaking regulations, strong-arming local governments, and unethical competitive tactics became the norm. The very thing that earned these start-ups traction in the first place — how they recast relationships between strangers in radically constructive terms — was sacrificed to growth. Instead, they became a particularly aggressive extension of business as usual.

Despite these disappointing examples, the real sharing economy has not disappeared. The sudden explosion of this economy may have had its growing pains, but this new wave of creating wealth presents inventive and creative opportunities for Merseyside and Greater Manchester to become the world’s first city regions that develop a platform for sharing- where its citizens, governments and markets work together to promote sharing and the common good. 

Our city regions are in the best place to take advantage of an era-defining opportunity for us, once again, to lead the world in economic development. One that fundamentally transforms the way our people create value.

We have increasing evidence of the positive outcomes that a sharing economy approach can produce to revive a dying shopping centre in Newcastle-under-Lyme and are identifying sites to roll out the approach here in the North West.

Imagine an economy based on solidarity. An economy that is future-proofed through car-sharing, bike-sharing, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, co-working, co-housing, open government, participatory budgeting, hackerspaces and more. 

It doesn't have to be an idealistic view of how society can work, it is happening in pockets across cities - we just need to make sure the people who can lead this change come together.

Want to find out more? Get in touch with Mike for a coffee and chat: Mike@hometownplus.co.uk 

During the last 30 years, Britain has undergone dramatic socio-economic change.

For some this has worked well – they have been able to embrace the changes around them and make them work to their advantage.  Many of our cities, for example, have been transformed by a combination of the concentration of digital and other businesses, investment in infrastructure and a revival of inner city living.  But there have been huge swathes of the population for whom the change has damaged much of what they value and who now feel that they have been abandoned by society and government alike. 

Nowhere has this manifested itself more than in the old industrial heartlands, where more often than not the townsfolk were reliant for employment on a small number of large businesses, now long gone and unlikely ever to be replaced.  The community was often built around these industries and this too withered away simultaneously. 

The position has been exacerbated by the decline in town and shopping centres, previously thriving community hubs, but now hit hard by a combination of under investment, increased popularity of online shopping and the pull of large out of town shopping centres.  These towns have also seen in some cases an influx of residents for whom the area is not their historic hometown and who have yet to establish a sense of belonging. So today the Britain we see is one of contrasts – not just between the affluent South East and the rest of the country, but also between the cities which are forging a new and bright identity and the towns which have been left stranded in their wake.

If this situation is not addressed as a matter of urgency, the gap will get still wider.  The cities with their bars and restaurants, employment opportunities, excellent public transport and inner city housing will continue to attract those with money and talent whilst the towns will continue in the downward spiral which has left their centres derelict, job opportunities non existent and a large proportion of the population disaffected, disenfranchised and disillusioned.

Hometown Plus exists to redress the balance – to help the communities fight back, recover their identity, re-establish themselves and to help put local businesses and the general public back on the road to sustainable prosperity.

Find out more about our work to generate sustainable change for all stakeholders.