startupWhat’s amazing about the Internet is the fundamental way it has allowed us to join together. It has enabled us to meet people from across the country when we’re in our pajamas, or seek advice or help from someone in another timezone in mere seconds. We are living in what was labeled as, the Global Village. In the Global Village, we are connected, not just to our technological devices, but to each other.

From the early days of just simply being connected, we’ve worked together and created new ideas and new ways that could never have happened if we were siloed into our geographic areas. But now, spurred by economic unrest and revelations that society may not be operating as we trusted, we’re building on that connectivity and collaborating in a new way – a way to make change.

In today’s global collaborative economy, we know that there is power in the people and new ways for individuals to make an impact in the world and create positive change in our neighborhoods, our communities, our commerce, and our government.

So what is the collaborative economy?

To elaborate, I will lean on well-known Industry Analyst at Altimeter, Jeremiah Owyang, who has been researching this concept in and out. On his blog, he describes the term by stating, the “Collaborative Economy [is] a new economic model where there’s shared ownership and access among people, startups, corporations, and governments. They’re using social networks as a conduit to get what they want from each other – rather than inefficient institutions like failed subway systems, taxis or uninteresting hotels. They’re also Making their own goods and products and selling or giving it to each other, unlocking core skills that all humans in villages used to have, but not using technology to learn, share, and distribute beyond physical borders. The impact this can have to opportunity markets all across the globe can offer them new ways to generate income, share what’s valuable, and reduce their dependency on others.”

What is so intriguing about this new model of communication, is that we are taking the power back from one governing body at large corporations who have been telling us what to think and what to do, and understanding that we have power.

We can make change and we can prod companies to change. If I can think of one thing the financial fallout of 2008 has taught us, it’s that businesses can’t succeed in a world that is failing, and it will fail if we lose touch with transparency and openness and don’t embrace the people that can prevent it from falling down. Some companies have learned this too, and are embracing collaborative economy, as they should.

The collaborative economy is empowering the people to put us all on a playing field where we can contribute, and the companies learning to appreciate and engage in this change of society, will be those who succeed. (Read more about corporations who are embracing this change and using crowdsourcing and other options that use the collaborative concept in an upcoming article.)

Connectedness for global good

The incredibly and fascinating part of the collaborative economy is the good that can be created through this type of interaction. Think of it in this context – international governing agencies get together in one room to discuss global warming and climate control. They discuss issues, act political (as they should), and generally walk away with limited actionable items that take time, money, and resources to implement. The overall process is slow, it’s dated, and it hardly produces a positive outcome that is desperately needed.

Simultaneously, across the world, from barefoot economists to pajama-clad environmentalists, there are people in forums and all over the Internet discussing the same issues. There are kids who are looking to reduce their carbon footprint for school projects – and succeeding! Harness the strength in these individuals as they collaborate and provide their personal knowledge and insight, and solutions may just ride to the top.

The collaborative economy is a new way to approach global problem solving and governance – and a way that may prove to be effective, and even more importantly, efficient.

An example of a company using the power of many is Ushahidi, a non-profit tech company specializing in developing free and open source software, for information collection, visualization, and interactive mapping. The open-source project was founded with the focus of getting easy and critical information to almost anyone with a digital data connection (Internet or SMS). The concept is to provide real-time reporting about disasters and issues, to collect all accounts of the event and place them into one space. This platform can save lives by helping loved ones and rescue workers identify and save those who are endangered

It’s collaborative. It’s us helping us. It’s amazing.

Stay tuned for more on the collaborative economy and the prosumer movement.