Lauren Anderson is the Innovation Director for Collaborative Lab, which works with organisations to deliver socially game-changing and profitable solutions in the Collaborative Consumption space (read on to learn more about collaborative consumption). Lauren is a renowned expert on this new economic model for entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, corporations and government leaders around the world. Lauren is also a highly skilled public speaker and widely published author/columnist.
Tell us a little about the collaborative consumption movement and how you are working to promote and build it.
In late 2009, I met a woman named Rachel Botsman – she had just relocated to Sydney from NYC, and was in the final stages of writing her first book about a topic she called collaborative consumption. She described this term to me as the resurgence and reinvention of more traditional forms of commerce – such as swapping, bartering, lending, trading, renting and exchanging – that were being enabled by technology and enabling us to do them on a scale, in ways and with assets never possible before. The rise of companies such as Airbnb, the popularity of carsharing, and the renewed importance of local community were all indicators of this trend.
I started working with Rachel six months later to build awareness of this social and economic shift, and raise the profile of the companies and people making it possible. This work has seen me travel around the world to share these ideas with different industries and organisations, form relationships with some of the most incredible, inspiring and important entrepreneurs of our time, as well as build a passionate community of local champions we call our Global Curator network.
More recently, as the collaborative consumption movement has gained enough steam to take on a life of its own, we have started to shift our focus to helping existing companies and governments understand both the role they need to play, and the opportunity they have to leverage these same principles and trends to both stay relevant and also contribute to shaping a more sustainable and better connected world.
What is it about social innovation and social impact that draws you to the field?
A few years prior to meeting Rachel, I had the good fortune to attend a week-long conference with 99 other young people, focused on exploring social innovation and business for social purpose as an alternative to business as usual. This experience completely opened my eyes to the fact that it was possible to do good work while also running a sustainable and successful business, and revealed the rich world in between the corporate and nonprofit sectors, which fuelled a great passion in me to help further this as an alternative business model. Prior to this experience, business had not really interested me, and in fact I was really turned off by all it represented. Now I’m really hungry to learn more and push what’s possible in this space in between. I am really inspired by the work of organisations like B Lab, who are pioneering certification of ‘benefit corporations’, and also smart entrepreneurs who are driven by purpose and fulfilment above financial reward. These people are going to be the game-changers of the future.
When I learned more about those pioneering the collaborative consumption space, I saw how this sat so squarely in the space of social innovation, as it gave opportunities for individual economic empowerment, connected people and also sought to shift away from the massive consumer machine that has been driving us forward over the past few decades.
What have been your favourite or most inspiring experiences of the last few years?
One of the personal benefits of the work I have been doing over the last few years has been to connect with incredible people from all corners of the world – it certainly makes it feel like a smaller place! After having been connected on Facebook by mutual friends, I met a Brazilian changemaker on a trip to Berlin, and he put me in touch with an incredible creative school called Perestroika based in Porto Alegre, Brazil. They invited me to visit their school and teach seminars on digital entrepreneurship and creative leadership, and this quickly became a career highlight for me! I was invited back earlier this year, and got to visit their new school in the country’s capital, Brasilia. I am so inspired by the work of this organisation and its founders, and always relish the opportunity to work with them.
Another incredible experience was being invited to speak at an awesome event in Malmo, Sweden, called The Conference. It’s run by an awesome organisation called Media Evolution, a membership organisation of most of the media, tech and creative companies of Southern Sweden, and I can only describe it as a beautifully curated, more edgy, Swedish TED. The people behind the event are some of my favourites in the world, and I even managed to convince my husband to include this year’s Conference at the end of our honeymoon itinerary… what better than to be inspired on your honeymoon, right?
If you had to explain your life in three words, what would they be?
I suspect that the answer to this question could be different on any given day, but today this is my answer:
Purposeful. Passionate. Globally-Connected (I’m cheating with a hyphen…).
Photo credit: Lauren Anderson