Remember the book about the life-long value of what you learned in kindergarten? For example, sharing, playing nice with others, and taking naps. Did you know that "sharing" is not only a way to express kindness and love, but is also an effective way to save or more efficiently spend money? Public and private schools will benefit (and some survive) if they expand their capacity to share.
The Sharing Economy has existed at a micro level for centuries, but is expanding with the help of the Internet (efficient, fast communications), scalable businesses, and broader social acceptance. Since by definition sharing is free, what is the connection with money and economy?
Forbes estimates that spending within the emerging sharing economy will exceed $3 billion in 2013. Companies such as Etsy, Airbnb, Zipcar, Thredup, and Yerdle are creating real savings for consumers and real business profit. Gross sales on Etsy in 2012 were nearly $900 million, and Airbnb earned approximately $150 million in net income.
As I mentioned earlier, this sharing economy concept isn't new. Remember the pictures or stories about Amish neighbors coming together to help build a barn? They voluntarily worked together to contribute expertise, labor, tools, and materials to construct a valuable building that would support the livelihood of the recipient for many, many years.
Or go back even further to Acts, Chapter 2 in the Bible, where the Christians in the infancy of the Church,
"...had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord...." (Acts 2:44-46a, NKJV)
Entrenched businesses and organizations don't like the idea of such coopertive efforts. An article yesterday in The Washington Post, "The Sharing Economy: How do you stop something you can’t keep up with," discusses the regulatory issues that may temporarily slow the expansion of businesses that facilitate sharing.
Will school associations support and facilitate sharing among member schools? What business or institutional limitations will be threatened?
The wise chief administrators and board members recognize that tuition or per-student-allocation cannot continue escalating at the same year-over-year pace. Just as every other industry has been forced to consider less expensive ways to offer higher value, schools leaders must provide more personalized education experiences to a broader audience at a lower per pupil rate.
Resourceful Access to Goods
The strategic planning process of every school today should include the establishment or participation in buying cooperatives that reduce expenses and provide access to local goods when possible. For examples, check out the programs created by CREC: Capitol Region Education Council (Hartford, CT) or Green Schools (Berkeley, CA). This isn't about advocating for exaggerated environmentalism--this is about smart business decisions because every school is dealing with budget contraints that require new ways of thinking and doing.
Efficient Access to Labor
In another effort to operate at a lower cost, consider how your school could benefit from the use of virtual labor (administrative assistants, programmers, writers, telemarketers, etc.) Elance, for example, is a resource our company uses regularly to complete projects. Why hire a full- or even part-time person when you can hire a specifically talented person online who can get the job done.
Fiverr is a great place to get a wide variety of tasks done for $5! You can use this site to have a customized thank video created for each of your major donors. For $5!!
OrgAmi is a nonprofit company that offers outsourced accounting, HR, IT, and support services for schools and other nonprofits. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet Michael Hassid, the founder of this company, and I was very impressed with the quality of service they provide.
These are only a few examples of where schools can find resources to gradually reinvent their business model. Investing your energies in sharing may produce new ways to manage enrollment, fundraising, and/or curriculum development.
What would happen to education if we truly made an effort to share?