About the Initiative

The University of Minnesota’s Initiative on the Sharing Economy sheds light on the growing trend away from the exclusive ownership and consumption of resources to one of shared use and consumption. Peer-to-peer shared mobility is a particular focus. The Initiative has four broad objectives:

  • To support the development of the University of Minnesota as a center for thought leadership on issues surrounding the sharing (and on-demand) economy and the study of its impact on the economy, society, and the environment.
  • To cultivate a cross-disciplinary community that draws on faculty and researchers from schools and departments throughout the University.
  • To encourage University-driven entrepreneurship and innovation for the sharing and on-demand economy.
  • To promote engagement with industry, government, and the non-profit sector and to provide balanced analysis and guidance to policymakers.

These objectives will be achieved through:

  • Research collaboration among affiliated faculty and researchers, co-advising of students, and joint pursuit of external funding.
  • Discussion and dissemination of ideas through regularly offered seminars, workshops, and other external engagement events.
  • Publication of research papers, reviews, and opinion pieces targeting the academic community, policymakers, industry, and the broader public.
  • Undertaking the evaluation and analysis of emerging business models and technologies on the behalf of industry, government, and other organizations.

The Initiative on the Sharing Economy was established by the Center for Transportation Studies in partnership with Saif Benjaafar, Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering, and other faculty members across the University of Minnesota and is administered by CTS.


Saif Benjaafar
Director, Initiative on the Sharing Economy

Michael McCarthy, Program Editor

Advisory Board

Board members provide the expertise and strategic direction to help expand research and implementation in the important, swiftly advancing arena of the sharing economy. Current members

What is the Sharing Economy?

The Sharing Economy—also known as collaborative consumption—is a growing trend away from the exclusive ownership and consumption of resources to one of shared use and consumption. It takes advantage of excess capacity for many categories of durable products and is facilitated by peer-to-peer online marketplaces (platforms). Applications include home sharing (AirBnB), car sharing (RelayRides (now Turo)), bike sharing (Nice Ride), office space (LiquidSpace), designer clothes (Style Lend), and parking spots (JustPark).

Collaborative consumption offers promise in several areas:

  • Generate income for owners; monetize expensive and rapidly depreciating assets
  • Provide access to those who may otherwise prefer not to own an expensive asset
  • Improve sustainability (e.g., fewer cars, lower emissions, less congestion, less need for parking)

Under the initiative, researchers aim to study the extent that collaborative consumption delivers on this promise and to identify any disadvantages or perils.