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A Shared Future: Ryan Gourley of A2Share

Ryan Gourley at the A2Share Clothing Swap at Canterbury House

The A2Share Clothing Swap at Canterbury House

Ryan Gourley at the A2Share Clothing Swap at Canterbury House

L to R Alyssa Mandik, Alex Winnick, Diana Bach, Ryan Gourley, Nathan Shields and Katie Minnema of A2Share

The A2Share Clothing Swap at Canterbury House

L to R Alyssa Mandik, Alex Winnick, Diana Bach, Ryan Gourley, Nathan Shields and Katie Minnema of A2Share

Ryan Gourley and Lauren White of A2Share present at Ann Arbor SOUP

The A2Share Clothing Swap at Canterbury House

Checking out a Cosby sweater at the A2Share Clothing Swap at Canterbury House


Ryan Gourley thought Ann Arbor's sharing-based organizations could use an informational resource to bring them together, so he created one himself. Gourley, a graduate student in U-M's School of Natural Resources and Environment, won a $500 grant last year from Shareable magazine to fund the creation of A2Share, an online hub for Ann Arbor's sharing economy. 
 
The magazine also offered funding for Gourley to organize an Ann Arbor Sharing Summit, which brought together 25 area organizations for a day-long event last August. He's since added nearly 100 different organizations and events to A2Share's online directory, and planned events including monthly potlucks and another Sharing Summit on March 22 at U-M's Dana Building
 
We talked to Gourley about the origins of A2Share, what defines a sharing economy and what his organization has accomplished so far. 
 
Why does our community need something like A2Share? 
There's already a lot of organizations like the ReSkilling Festival, the co-ops and Selma Cafe, but it seemed like there wasn't a lot of communication between these groups. For example, people who know about sharing food and CSAs might not see the connection to sharing data and wireless networks. [A2Share] is supposed to be an online clearinghouse and hub where people can go to find out about these organizations and events instead of finding them organically, which is nice but it can be slow.
 
What is a sharing economy and what are the benefits of it?
That's the million-dollar question right now, pinning that down. There's actually a lot of debate among people working in this space about what constitutes sharing and how it should be defined. For some people it means literally sharing, where you give and take with no expectation that money should be entering the equation. On the flip side of that you have these startups on the scene that might be more like glorified renting. It's like the difference between Airbnb and couchsurfing. In my definition, I kind of put them both in the broader term of more collaborative consumption. I think there's lots of different nuances within that but I think they hold more value for today's world because, approaching it from an environmental standpoint, they both help minimize the amount of new resources we use.
 
What originally got you interested in sharing economies?
I've long been interested in consumption and waste and how much we do it unnecessarily in our country. So I'm coming at it from that perspective: how do we reduce our impact on our environment and how much we extract out of it? I'm also really interested in startups, things like Airbnb and WISPs and Sidecar and Uber. I thought it was a really novel solution to getting people to use less and share with their neighbors and maybe even make a little side income on top of that.
 
Since you got A2Share started, have you heard of any organizations or people who have connected as you originally intended?
I don't know if I can pinpoint any, but the potlucks have been really cool. It's really encouraging and reinforcing to see people's eyes light up and say, "Oh, that exists here? I can do that? That's awesome." We have a good maker community here through Maker Works and All Hands Active, who are into sharing. A lot of people don't know about them and wouldn't feel comfortable just walking into a maker space or a hacker space and figuring out what to do. But you get them around a table and it's like, "Oh, you can teach me how to build a robot or build a circuit? I'll be there on Thursday, and I'll bring my lasagna to trade."

All photos by Doug Coombe

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