Sub-theme 56: Organizing in the Shadow of Sharing

Johanna Mair
Hertie School of Governance, Germany, & Stanford University, USA
Indre Maurer
University of Göttingen, Germany
Achim Oberg
University of Mannheim, Germany, & Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, Austria

Call for Papers

This sub-theme applies the general theme of the 32nd EGOS Colloquium – "Organizing in the Shadow of Power" – to the sharing economy. The sharing economy in many ways stands for the power of organizing from below. It took its beginnings as social movements and grassroots initiatives which accumulated towards a massive social and economic phenomenon. Since then, different business models based on the basic idea of sharing, bartering or lending have emerged and diffused into a wide variety of application areas ranging from car-sharing to co-working and community gardening. The continued diffusion of these models is favored by several key conditions: There is a growing need for sustainable production and consumption in both business and society. The sharing economy seems to answer this need by producing business models that combine economic growth with environmental and social sustainability. Innovative technologies help to implement these business models with great coverage. A wide acceptance of internet platforms and social communities also supports the acceptance of virtual and temporary communities for coordinating sharing (between strangers).

Taken together, the sharing economy seems equipped with the power to produce new forms of organizing and competing as well as changing or even disrupting existing ones. This poses a number of challenges with regard to organizing within the sharing economy, for example: the sharing economy implies alternative forms of organizing regarding both demand side and supply side which blur the distinction between owner, consumer and producer. Moreover, the extensive use of online platforms in new business models of the sharing economy raises the question of how to safeguard actors against fraud and misconduct. This refers especially to the role of informal coordination mechanisms such as trust, community norms or reputation. Finally, the lack or grey zones of industry-specific regulations point to (unintended) contradictory or even negative outcomes of the sharing economy, such as distortion of competition, avoidance of working standards or social exclusion of those who have nothing to share.

Academic insights on these challenges are lagging behind public discourse and practice. In this sub-theme, we intend to bring together research and researchers from different institutional settings and theoretical backgrounds in order to explore and analyze the key challenges of organizing in the sharing economy.

Paper contributions may include the following aspects and questions:

(New) forms of organizing (in) the sharing economy, e.g.

  • What are the resources and activities that sharing models leverage and how are resources and activities configured?
  • What are the common features of and differences between (historic, established, innovative) sharing models? What is the relationship between these different models? What typologies can be applied to the sharing economy?
  • What are the opportunity structures for as well as mobilizing strategies and tactics of sharing models?

Emergence and diffusion of sharing economy organizations and practices, e.g.

  • How does institutional context shape organizing and the very practices of the sharing economy?
  • How do new models of sharing spread (locally and globally)? What are the drivers and obstacles of the sharing economy in economy, politics and civil society?
  • How does the emergence and diffusion of the sharing economy affect differences among regimes and forms of capitalism?

(Potentially contradictory) outcomes and processes of sharing (at the level of the organization, industry and society), e.g.

  • What are the intended and unintended consequences of sharing?
  • How does the sharing economy alter competitive dynamics and structures within industries?
  • How does the sharing economy change the interaction between the private and public sector?
  • How and in which way does the sharing economy affect existing pattern of inequality and/or create new forms of exclusion?


Johanna Mair is Professor of Organization, Management and Leadership at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin (Germany) and the Hewlett Foundation Visiting Scholar at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (USA). She served on the faculty at IESE Business School (Spain) from 2001–2011 and has held a visiting position at the Harvard Business School (USA) and INSEAD (France). Her research focuses on how novel organizational and institutional arrangements generate economic and social development and the role of innovation in this process.
Indre Maurer is Professor of Organization Studies and Corporate Development at the Faculty of Economic Sciences of Göttingen University, Germany. She has held positions at Cologne University and Augsburg University. Her research focuses on the governance of inter-organizational relationships and social capital. Her recent empirical work in these areas examines entrepreneurial, project-based and sharing economy organizations.
Achim Oberg is research affiliate at the Institute of Organization Studies at WU Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, Austria, and senior researcher at the Institute for SME Research of the University of Mannheim, Germany. He held positions at RWTH Aachen University and KIT Karlsruhe. His research focuses on overlapping organizational fields and the emergence of new organizational forms and practices.