The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
Our AirBnB is called Plum Blossom Cottage. That's its official name. It's behind the scenes name is "Ed and Cibyl's Economic Resilience Plan"! As a middle class family raising three children we have almost always struggled financially. When we started our family we made a choice to have a stay-at-home parent in order to create the best environment for our young children. This meant that I (Cibyl) was out of the work-force for many years. I supplemented our income through part-time work, doing some in home childcare, but we were always primarly dependent on one income. In that time, there have been two economic downturns. My husband lost his IT job in the early 2000's and then lost an independent IT contract in 2013. By that time I had been back to school in order to be able to teach. But economically, even with two incomes it has often been challenging to make ends meet with a family. I also have been diagnosed with PTSD stemming from early childhood domestic violence. I have to be very selective about work environments, work hours, taking time off, and having access to resources that help me manage any symptoms if and when they arise. Economic instability almost always exacerbates these underlying issues. When fundamental surival needs are adequately met, I am able to grow and thrive and make valuable, creative contributions that bring meaning and joy to my life and that serve others. When we first heard about AirBnB, both of us said "hey, we can do that! We have lots of experience with that!" Very fortunately, we received a financial windfall and after paying off some debts, we converted my art studio into a guest cottage. We started to have bookings even before it was completely finished and in the Fall of 2014, before Ed secured employment, the revenue from the cottage helped us pay our mortgage! Between our two jobs and the cottage income, for the first time in our married lives, we are starting to enjoy true financial stability. We have relationships with other people in the service industry, mom and pop type small businesses and we share our knowledge and contacts with our guests. In other words, we see ourselves as a "gateway" to uniquely Portland type experiences that also help our friend's small business ventures. It feels really wonderful to be part of a creative, sustainable economy that focusses on a sense of abundance, sharing, creativity, and fostering global connections rather than economic models of scarcity, fear, danger and insular protectiveness that focus on greed and impersonal economic forces. We have had guests from Japan, Ireland, Nepal as well as various places in the USA. With AirBnB, VRBO and others like them, ordinary, middle class people like us are able to not only particpate in the global economy, but also contribute to our local economies. In other words, it actually feels good to have a sense of participation, even in these small ways, than to be always at the mercy of large corporate structures whose hiring/firing needs can have hugely disruptive impacts on families. Now when we go to work, we can actually be MORE productive, MORE effective professionally because we are more finanicially empowered and resilient at home. Thank you!