Shifting Perspectives: Redesigning Regulation for the Sharing Economy

There is no lack of opinions and debate about how to regulate the sharing economy. Yet, to resolve this complex issue we need to shift perspectives. We need to move beyond stating opinions to gaining a real understanding of what the problem is. We need to move beyond debate and engage relevant stakeholders in a constructive conversation on how to solve this issue in a smart and reasonable manner. And we need to recognize that the sharing economy is more than Uber and Airbnb, but see it as a much broader phenomenon that offers both great opportunities and challenges. That is what the Sharing Economy Public Design project has attempted to do.

The rising popularity of the sharing economy is not only disrupting existing markets, like transportation and accommodation, but it is also forcing governments to rethink regulation for these and other affected markets. It’s an issue that is being fiercely discussed in the media, in everyday conversations and in city councils across the globe. Many strong opinions and solutions have been brought forward, but do we really know what’s going on? Regulation remains elusive as it is a complex problem without an easy solution.

The Sharing Economy Public Design project, a partnership between MaRS Solutions Lab, the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto, applies a design perspective to this complex problem. By looking at regulation from the perspective of users, and by thoroughly mapping out the user experience, we were able to gain a much deeper understanding of the challenges at hand. We interviewed over 136 individuals, including taxi drivers, uberX drivers, hotel managers, Airbnb hosts and many others who are subject to regulation. We also convened 100 relevant stakeholders to validate our analysis and help co-design possible solutions. We brought together regulators from all three levels of government (municipal, provincial and federal), industry representatives (e.g., from the taxi and hotel industry), sharing economy companies (e.g., Uber, Airbnb), insurers, agencies like Metrolinx, and other experts. In three different workshops these individuals helped to develop ideas for effective regulation, which can be defined as regulation that creates public value, supports innovation and reduces administrative burden.

When it comes to introducing regulation for the sharing economy, governments should not only look at regulating new entrants, but should also revisit current regulations to reduce burden for existing operators. Governments should not just think of the sharing economy as something to respond to. They should think about what kind of sharing economy they want and then develop a proactive strategy that helps to build it.

The report highlights our findings from our research and workshops in both the transportation and accommodations sectors. Within the report, we present a 5-step framework for cities to develop a sharing economy strategy. For the accommodations sector, six key implications for regulation have been identified and the report suggests way to solve them. For transportation, our research has identified seven key issues and 24 solutions.

Download the Executive Summary

Download the report


For a detailed agenda of our Sharing Economy Forum with the City of Toronto, please visit their website.

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