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Alberto Ares, Carlos Ballesteros, Laura Sierra

Sharing Economy in Vulnerable Contexts

AbThe objective of this paper is to demonstrate that the so-called Sharing Economy (hereinafter SE) can be a good tool of mutual support in environments of social vulnerability, uprooting and/or situations of difficulty. However, this does not seem to be the most common approach when discussing SE. In this sense, and starting from a critique of the commonly accepted definitions and approaches of the SE, an attempt will be made to establish a new conceptual framework that places the SE within the social economy, the economy of care and the mutual support networks, thus betting on a type of transformative and participatory research that allows improving both society and the situation of individuals (Mick, Pettigrew, Pechmann and Ozanne, 2011). The collaborative consumption could be a very good manifestation of this relationship of support and solidarity in the context of the groups to which we refer in this article. Support networks are forms of relationship and transfer system and their value can be considered from their role in the exchange of relationships, but also of services and products, from which primary security and opportunity to grow as a person can be derived (Méndez and Cruz, 2008). Through these exchanges, support networks contribute to the quality of life of the population, not only because they provide material and instrumental supports that improve living conditions, but also because of the significant impact in the emotional sphere. This chapter is structured in four parts: First, a reference is made to the concept of vulnerability, with special attention to the different perspectives of the social sciences and, more specifically, to the economic one. The existence of vulnerable consumers is basic to explain our main thesis: that the SE acquires its deepest meaning when it is formalized in situations of economic fragility that need the network, cooperation and collaboration between peers in order to survive and coexist in this environment. A second part analyzes the concept of SE from a critical perspective, trying to verify if in the definitions and conceptualizations that have been given by the different authors this social perspective is contemplated or, on the contrary, the SE is identified with segments of wealthy consumers. A third part makes reference to the different types of support networks, with the idea of placing them as the natural scenario of the SE, which gives it its definitive meaning. The fourth part tries to unite all these reflections, as a conclusion