Expert Advisory Panel on the Collaborative Economy: October 2017

Minutes from the September 2017 meeting of the Scottish Expert Advisory Panel on the Collaborative Economy.

Attendees and apologies

In attendance

  • Helen Goulden, The Young Foundation (Chair)
  • Ben Bell, Uber
  • Jonathan Coburn, Social Value Lab
  • Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Regulatory Review Group (RRG)
  • Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland
  • John Schmidt, Shepherd & Wedderburn
  • Douglas Shand, Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC)
  • Martin Namor, Scottish Government
  • Corey Reilly, Scottish Government
  • Jamie Steed, Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • Louise Sutherland, Scottish Government
  • Brent Brodie, Third Sector Unit (Scottish Government)
  • Dominic Chalmers, Strathclyde University
  • Alastair Davies, Social Investment Scotland (SIS)
  • Pieter van de Glind, ShareNL
  • Kaela Scott, Involve
  • George Windsor, Tech City UK
  • James Wright, Co-operatives UK


  • Lorraine King, Scottish Government
  • Claire Mack, Scottish Renewables
  • Polly Purvis, ScotlandIS
  • Patrick Robinson, Airbnb
  • Graeme Smith, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC)

Items and actions

1. Welcome

The Chair welcomed everyone to the panel session, thanking them for their attendance. The evidence session was on wider implications including public services and social value. To ensure an open and transparent process, the presentations and submissions will be published online.

2. Stakeholder evidence session

The Chair invited stakeholders to present their responses to key questions which they were provided in advance. The following organisations presented to the panel:

  • Co-operatives UK
  • ShareNL
  • Social Investment Scotland (SIS)
  • Strathclyde University
  • Tech City UK

3. Follow-up questions from panel to stakeholders - Public and social value

It has been noted at some of the evidence sessions that digital skills is a challenge in the context of the collaborative economy for both potential providers and consumers. This was discussed in relation to social enterprises that have to date not generally adopted collaborative platform models. The limited resources and time they have to invest and explore new models was likely to be a major factor, this is in contrast with other new entrants such as those from university spin offs. The need for a wider focus on social growth alongside economic growth was discussed and that there is the potential for collaborative models to address social challenges, especially in rural areas, and deliver public services in innovative ways.

The issues with Scotland’s broadband provision and digital literacy were also highlighted - particularly that more could also be done to connect the online with the offline community and enable the benefits of the collaborative economy to reach all communities. In relation to skills, it was felt there was an opportunity to promote transferrable skills such as where Scotland has a well developed computer games sector and which has significant potential for the wider technology sector. The panel felt that Scotland should be looking for global examples of good practice, with examples being Tech for Good and Impact Hubs. Just Giving was also discussed as an example of a for-profit for good model where they raise revenue to re-invest and grow their business which in turn benefits charity fund raising activities.

The panel was interested in behaviour change in Amsterdam around sharing resources. Over a three year period from 2013, when asked if would rent something to someone that they didn’t know, the proportion of people saying “yes” rose from 10% in 2013 to 33% in 2016. This change was seen as being supported by the media, ShareNL and the sharing of personal anecdotes on use such as peer to peer accommodation. While Amsterdam status as a Sharing City had helped this change, it was seen across the Netherlands: the founders of social collaborative platforms have generally been initiated by people driven by their personal passions.

The issue of scaling up of delivery was discussed where there are challenges for social enterprises and also for platforms and expectations which also increase as they expand. Adopting a financial operating model which provided ongoing sustainability was seen as key. In relation to government support, it was felt there was a need for this to be creative and to allow space for experimentation.

The opportunity to embed collaborative platforms on to existing co-operative initiatives was discussed with, for example. the development of a collaborative model that could be used by a number of autonomous businesses (eg taxi co-operatives) but which could benefit from development informed by a critical mass of shared learning and knowledge.

4. An Overview on the Sharing Cities Alliance – Pieter van de Glind, ShareNL

Key points included:

  • The Sharing Cities Alliance is currently made up of 13 cities from across the world where learning is shared between cities to help adapt and shape policy, overcome challenges and a safe place to collaborate and exchange research and policies

  • The Former Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam and Vice President of the Netherlands has supported the Alliance saying “It means easy access to knowledge, research and case studies regarding the sharing and platform economy”

  • The Alliance is creating a database for cities to access research, case studies and various other forms of information

  • Vandebron was an example of a growing platform in the Netherlands which is an online marketplace for energy on which anyone who generates renewable energy can sell their yield directly to consumers

  • BlaBlaCar is transporting more people than European train companies

  • Many cities are looking to get involved in the Alliance with the potential of some UK cities considering applying.

5. Consumer Participation Workshops - Kaela Scott, Involve

To further inform the Panel’s understanding of consumers’ experience of collaborative economy platforms, Involve and Ipsos Mori were commissioned by the Scottish Government to gather the views of consumers on the impact of the collaborative economy on both individuals and communities. Two workshops in Glasgow and Edinburgh with a total of 50 participants, age ranging from 18 to 76.

An overview of the key findings were presented to the Panel.

6. Panel debate

The panel discussed and agreed that there were opportunities to harness the inspiration and learning behind ShareNL and the Sharing Cities Alliance. The panel noted that the Netherlands had been willing to take risks and learn from successes and failures, the example was given where bike sharing had grown to an unmanageable extent and had to be scaled back. The Sharing Cities Alliance was viewed as a way to share learning and use this to shape policy in individual cities; this included opportunities for delivering public services in new ways such as in Innisfil, Canada where Uber is working to address long standing transport problems.

There was agreement that co-ops can bring learning to be applied to platforms and that profit making businesses can also deliver social benefit eg OLIO an initiative to share surplus food.

The panel agreed that conditions need to put in place to support the collaborative economy in areas such as business planning, funding and skills alongside the need to have the necessary digital infrastructure. The panel also agreed government needs to be more aware of the collaborative economy and the opportunities it presents to deliver its priorities providing public benefit and meeting local community needs. There should also be a focus on changing Scotland’s mind-set to be more progressive. The political and media reaction to some of the ideas around platforms, eg engagement with the NHS, is an issue which is difficult to tackle, but it was agreed that positive political leadership could help as had been seen with Sharing cities.

7. Final round up and date and time of next meeting

The Chair thanked everyone for attending and for their contributions and looked forward to seeing them next month for the final session where the final recommendations will be discussed It will be held in PwC Office, 141 Bothwell Street, Glasgow on Thursday 30 November between 12 – 4pm.

Annex A

Action number Owner Agreed action Status
1 Panel Panel to request data from STAA & Airbnb which can be built on available data sources e.g. Indigo House report Airbnb data provided
2 Secretariat List of co-ops from James Wright at Cooperatives UK
3 Secretariat Tech City UK to circulate current and future workplan information



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