The sharing economy's most vocal voices come from within the companies that are trying to change the laws that restrict their operations. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky are constantly pushing for regulatory changes, because it helps their businesses. But regular folks also want to be heard, which is why the nonprofit sharing economy alliance Peers launched a Petitions platform on Monday.
Anyone can submit a petition about anything, though Peers hopes petitioners will stick to the sharing economy theme. The platform grew out of an early petition started by Airbnb hosts in New York. The hosts rallied around changing New York law to loosen restrictions on renting out residences, collecting more than 230,000 signatures and delivering the petition to city lawmakers. Though the debate over Airbnb in New York rages on, Peers wanted to give people an easy way to organize around issues related to the sharing economy.
The group brought in Cristina Moon, formerly of Change.org, to lead the effort.
"[Petitions] are quickly become this very easy and accessible way for people to launch campaigns and get behind an issue," Moon said.
Most of Peers' 250,000 members aren't full-time activists, and petitions give them a way to express support for issues they care about. But what happens after you collect a few hundred thousand signatures? That part is up to you, Moon said.
"Petition starters do need to deliver the petitions," she said. "One of the things that is most remarkable about our community is they are really invested in organizing on the ground, so they want to print the petition out and take it to the decision-makers."
Moon pointed to a petition started in support of the Virginia Food Freedom Act as an example of the kind of power the platform can wield. Moon reached out to Bernadette Barber, a Virginia farmer and activist for cottage food businesses that want to sell foods they make in their homes. Barber started a petition on the Peers platform to loosen the restrictions on those businesses, which attracted the attention of state representatives, and now Virginia is looking into the issue.
Other petitioners are focused on issues like the legalization of ridesharing in Seattle and allowing Airbnb to operate freely in Denver.
"It's been a really fun process. My favorites are the cottage food activists, who are middle-aged ladies and grandmothers who call me sweet sayings and who make baked goods I want to eat," Moon said, laughing. "It's been really enlightening to see the different ways that the sharing economy is touching people's lives."
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