iPad 2 group test setup

Based on the concept that access is better than ownership, collaborative consumption uses network technology for people to share, swap, barter, rent, or trade things, skills, time, information, and more. Want to learn to speak Russian? Have a great idea for a new product?

These four promising networks that are connecting people around the globe, giving more people greater access to resources in the process.

Image courtesy of matt.
Image courtesy of matt.


This platform connects people with a place to stay, ranging from a pullout sofa to an entire home through a paid transaction. In some cases, it is similar to a B&B, where guests are served breakfast and have lots of contact with their host, while others hosts may be out of town and merely leave the key for the guest. With homes available across the globe, it is a great way to create a cultural experience and meet locals. Reviews of both hosts and guest helps keep this service safe and predictable. Etiquette issues have come to light recently, so keep this in mind as a guest.


Launched in 2012 and available in most major U.S. cities, this California-based company enables peer-to-peer ride sharing by connecting drivers with a car to passengers. The Lyft app allows users to request a ride and view profiles with reviews of nearby drivers.  An extensive driver screening and inspection process helps ensure safety.


This New York-based community invention platform was founded in 2009 and helps promising ideas come to life by bringing together the necessary ingredients for success. Inventors submit ideas on their website and help in the development phase. The company’s website sells these invented products, and the company also has relationships with Home Depot and Best Buy, and the inventor gets a portion of the profits.

What is impressive about this concept is how it levels the playing fields. If an idea is well received, it has a good chance of making it into the market.


With a mission “to help anyone learn anything,” this platform for online learning brings together students and experts. Courses range in cost, with some being free of charge. The website enables educators to build a course, promote it, and earn money from course fees. With more than 6 million students, 14,000 instructors, and 25,000 courses available on demand, the platform has become quite popular.

Feature image courtesy of Arne Kuilman

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.