Sharing Cities for Urban Transformation: Narrative, Policy and Practice

Author: Darren Sharp
Date published: 24 January 2018
Research commissioned by: Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute

Why did we select this research?

Using transformative social innovation theory to analyse Shareables sharing cities network. Comparative study of the sharing cities network and airbnbs competing shared city narrative and the grassroots movement of home sharing clubs - mobilising hosts and guests in over 100 cities to lobby government for platform-friendly home sharing legislation through regulatory hacking and community organising

Key findings

Commercial networks leverage network effects and urban clustering through two-sided marketplaces. Sharing cities have gained formal support from various municipal governments through policies and programs that leverage shared assets, infrastructure and civic participation to create economic and social inclusion. Influence urban regulatory regimes amidst a growing backlash against commercial home sharing's impact on housing affordability, racial discrimination, and 'corporate nullification' = intentional violation of the law

Transformative Social Innovation 

Creating a network between cities encourages actors to replicate trans-local experiments through face to face and digital interactions in multiple cities simultaneously that connect diverse stakeholders including individuals, community group, sharing enterprises, and local governments. Platforms have skilfully leveraged the agglomeration benefits of proximity, density, and amenity of shareable assets in cities to make the sharing economy a uniquely urban phenomenon. Cities are forced to confront commercial platforms on multiple fronts and face accusations of supporting 'dead weight vested interests' and 'antiquated business modles' while stifling digital innovation.


Gorenflo led the development of a progressive narrative of the sharing economy with the transformative potential to restore community life, distribute power relations and create social impact

Main insights:

TRANSIT project = four year research project cofunded by the european commission - developed a hybrid approach to the empirical study of social innovation networks using a combination of transition, social movement, and institutional theory

TSI theory = how different agents of transformative social innovations work together to create new social relations, and innovate new forms of doing, organising, framing, and knowing

TSI practices co-evolve through dis-empowering social relations among new and incumbent social actors, institutions and between the dynamics of transformation and capture

- Seven insights for practice

  1. changing social relations
  2. institutional change
  3. new hybrid institutions
  4. sufficient autonomy
  5. common narratives of change
  6. taking advantage of opportunity context
  7. dynamics of transformation and capture


Sharp, D. (2018). Sharing Cities for Urban Transformation: Narrative, Policy and Practice. Urban Policy and Research, 1-14.