Local Governments and the Sharing Economy

One Earth

Year: 2015

Local governments are faced with a tsunami of Sharing Economy activities. This roadmap helps local governments across North America strategically engage to foster more sustainable cities. It’s also useful to audiences including city staff, local politicians, sustainability practitioners and Sharing Economy innovators, Sharing Economy critics and supporters.

In cities across North America, people are sharing tools and equipment, welcoming guests into spare rooms, eating food from people’s home kitchens, and paying for rides in cars of people they don’t know. Businesses are hosting others in their office space, industries are sharing transport of goods along their supply chains, and municipalities are offering public land for shared food production.

Download Local Governments and the Sharing Economy

Many cities have adopted a piecemeal and reactive approach. The next few years are critical for determining how cities respond.

The roadmap offers four main tools to help local governments address challenges and get ahead of the curve and harness the Sharing Economy to advance sustainability.

1. Defining the Sharing Economy

Analyzes different definitions of the Sharing Economy and provides one tailored to local government

2. Sustainability Filter and Sharing Economy Analysis

Describes a sustainability filter with six questions to help local governments prioritize involvement in the Sharing Economy, which is then used to analyze, in depth:

  • shared mobility,
  • shared spaces,
  • shared goods, and
  • community sharing

And to a lighter degree:

  • shared food, and
  • shared energy.

Sustainability impacts and recommendations for local governments are summarized.

3. Strategic Opportunities for Local Governments

Describes key strategic ways that local governments can enable the Sharing Economy to advance sustainable cities given limited resources. Examples include: enable community sharing; address data gaps; focus and align; lead by example; commit to equity; and develop systematic and integrated approaches over time.

4. Sharing Economy Resources

Provides a list of Sharing Economy experts and networks and recommended reading and a sample of local government materials including ordinances and bylaws.

The Roadmap Does Not:

  • Celebrate the Sharing Economy without looking at its downsides and challenges
  • Analyze all Sharing Economy sectors and areas in detail
  • Provide advice for other actors beyond local governments in North America
  • Suggest exactly what cities should do – each city’s choices are based on its unique priorities, interests and resources.

Explore City Cases and Snapshots:

The report provides examples from across North America and around the world, including the following detailed case studies:

  • Portland, Oregon – The City of Portland and Short-Term Rentals
  • Seoul, Korea – Seoul’s Sharing City Initiative
  • Toronto, Ontario  – Partners in Project Green: Materials Exchange Network
  • Austin, Texas – City of Austin and Short-Term Rentals
  • Hennepin County, MN – Coordinating Fix-It Clinics
  • Montreal, Quebec – Transport Cocktail: An Integrated Mobility System

See the full list of cases and snapshots here, as well as links to these cases.


1. Defining the Sharing Economy
2. Sustainability Filter
3a. Shared Mobility
3b. Shared Spaces
3c. Shared Goods
3d. Shared Food
3e. Shared Energy
4. Community Sharing
5. Addressing Data Gaps
6. Strategic Opportunities
7. Sharing Economy Resources
8. Final Thoughts and Next Steps
Appendices: Sample city ordinances, surveys and legislation