Safeguarding: Could Caring Be Part Of The Sharing Economy?
by Rob Gorle
The most dangerous situation for anyone is to be alone, without connection to anyone they know and trust. Conversely, the safest situation for anyone is to be in close connection with a number of trusted people.
This is the philosophical base for ACSYL's work in helping people increase the size and quality of their support networks. It's why ACSYL's circles of support only include people who are family and friends. We rely to a great extent on the interaction of people with each other and with the person at the centre of the circle to provide the best in safeguarding.
Not everyone understands this rationale immediately. But we find a world-wide expression of the idea in the growing popularity of services like Airbnb, Uber, and thousands of other companies which operate in the 'sharing economy'. While some of these have attracted displeasure from governments and entrenched interest groups, their popularity continues to grow.
Why? Because, as Joel Stein notes in Time magazine, "while we totally distrust strangers, we totally trust people – significantly more than we trust corporations or governments."1
You might remember how frightened people were of making payments by card online. We thought strangers would steal our money. It took a combination of PayPal, Ebay and Amazon to convince us that it was safe to do business on the web.
Studying how those companies managed to transform our fear into trust shows an alternative way forward for society in this digital society, and for the care and safety of people who are vulnerable in some way.
The model that Ebay's trust and safety division produced was simple and profound: rather than rely on insurance and background checks it got both the provider and the user to rate each other. The data was available to anyone who wanted to participate. That one innovation eliminated the few bad people and made it possible for strangers to learn enough about each other to feel safe about doing business together.
This model, sharing significant data to build trust, forms the basis of many of today's most successful enterprises. I wonder, could we use the same model in the care sector?
Imagine a world where the individual can rate her support worker – and where the support worker rates her client. Scary or exhilarating? Would providers be able to use the data generated by a rating system to assign suitably skilled workers to clients with particular needs? Would we see the demise of the paid support worker who spends an hour on the sofa watching TV 'supporting' his client? Would we see job satisfaction rates sky rocket as clients' needs and support workers' skills and interests coincide?
We live in a world awash with information. This can either tyrannise us or give us freedom. Nick Grossman, a general manager at Union Square Ventures, a venture-capital firm that invests heavily in sharing-economy companies, comments: "The traditional way is you can't do it unless you get a licence. That made sense until we had data. Now the starting point is yes."2
Everyone I know would rather live in a world where the starting point is yes. How about it?