Rethinking the sharing economy: The nature and organization of sharing in the 2015 refugee crisis

Martin Kornberger, Stephan Leixnering, Renate E Meyer, Markus A Höllerer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Our paper focuses on a non-standard sharing example that harbors the potential to disrupt received wisdom on the sharing economy. While originally entering the field to analyze, broadly from a governance perspective, how the 2015 refugee crisis was handled in Vienna, Austria, we found that the non-governmental organization Train of Hope – labeled as a ‘citizen start-up’ by City of Vienna officials – played an outstanding role in mastering the crisis. In a blog post during his visit in Vienna at the time, and experiencing the refugee crisis first-hand, it was actually Henry Mintzberg who suggested reading the phenomenon as part of the ‘sharing economy’. Continuing this innovative line of thought, we argue that our unusual case is in fact an excellent opportunity to discover important aspects about both the nature and organization of sharing. First, we uncover an additional dimension of sharing beyond the material sharing of resources (i.e., the economic dimension): the sharing of a distinct concern (i.e., the moral dimension of sharing). Our discovery exemplifies such a moral dimension that is rather different from the status quo materialistic treatments focusing on economic transactions and property rights arguments. Second, we hold that a particular form of organizing facilitates the sharing economy: the sharing economy organization. This particular organizational form is distinctive – at the same time selectively borrowing and skillfully combining features from platform organizations (e.g., use of technology as an intermediary for exchange and effective coordination, ability to tap into external resources) and social movements (e.g., mobilization, shared identity, collective action). It is a key quality of this form of organization to enable the balancing of the two dimensions inherent in the nature of sharing: economic and moral. Our paper contributes to this Special Issue of the Academy of Management Discoveries by highlighting and explaining the two-fold economic and moral nature of sharing and the organization of sharing between movement and platform.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-335
JournalAcademy of Management Discoveries
Issue number3
Early online date8 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • sharing economy
  • dimensions of sharing
  • sharing economy organization
  • social movements
  • platform organizations
  • collective action
  • refugee crisis


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