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Oxford University to build consumer trust into British sharing economy with SEUK

To unlock business potential, British sharing economy trade body SEUK has revealed Oxford University as a partner that will work with it to develop a “trustmark” to boost consumer adoption – a move backed by Sajid Javid and Anna Soubry.
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The March-launched Sharing Economy UK is chaired by Debbie Wosskow, the CEO and founder of Love Home Swap. More than 20 companies are signed up as partners, including Airbnb and Tech City UK, all of which are out to help the sector flourish.

Given how diverse the sharing economy itself is, the SEUK created an official definition for the market back in June, which was a first step in helping consumers understand what the new and disruptive sector represents.

The trade body, said: “The sharing economy involves using internet technologies to connect distributed groups of people and organisations to make better use of goods, skills, services, capital and spaces, sharing ‘access’ and so reducing the need for ‘ownership’.”

Oxford University has now become a partner to see the vision brought to fruition. Its Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, a part of the institution’s Saïd Business School (SBS), will work with the SEUK to create a “trustmark” – effectively becoming a “world first for the sharing economy”.

The initiative will develop research-based practices and procedures to follow, comprising high trust standards, which will act as a guide to sharing economy business and consumers.

“The sharing economy has grown exponentially over the past seven years and is rapidly becoming one of the most exciting spaces in the technology industry. Sharing businesses, by their very nature, are innovative models, which are shaking up traditional industries,” said Wosskow.

“This is why a robust, comprehensive, industry-wide trustmark is needed, to ensure absolute protection for both consumers and workers, and ultimately to propel the sharing economy forward into an exciting future. I am confident that working with the brilliant minds at Saïd will result in precisely the best practice trustmark our industry is calling out for.”

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The SEUK is backed by the government and Matthew Hancock was at the launch. More recently, Anna Soubry, who was appointed minister of state for small business, industry and enterprise during the Conservative reshuffle, has pledged support for the trustmark.

Business secretary Sajid Javid has also spoken of his support, claiming that “the sharing economy has enormous potential to create jobs and growth” and added “consumer trust is vital”.

Working alongside Oxford University will see faculty member Rachel Botsman team up with the SEUK. She taught the first MBA course on the sharing economy at the SBS, alongside Pamela Hartigan, SBS director of the Skoll Centre.

“It is fitting that the Skoll Centre should be embarking on this pioneering effort, given that the entrepreneur responsible for our existence is Jeff Skoll – the first president of eBay, the venture that spearheaded this new form of trust,” Hartigan said.

“As we know, eBay turned thousands of people into microentrepreneurs and laid the groundwork for the hundreds of shared economy platforms that are transforming the ways ordinary people can engage with one another.”

With work on criteria underway, the trust mark will be rolled out in stages in 2016.

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About Author

Zen Terrelonge

Zen Terrelonge is the deputy editor of Real Business, specialising in media, innovation, technology and the digital sector. A media professional with eight years worth of experience he has worked for both startup and established publications.

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