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Finding Toronto's real sharing economy

The real sharing economy is about community, not profit, say those in Toronto's maker movement.

Ryan Dyment of the Toronto Tool Library says it’s time to rethink what we mean by the term “sharing economy.”

Torstar News Service file

Ryan Dyment of the Toronto Tool Library says it’s time to rethink what we mean by the term “sharing economy.”

Forget Uber or Airbnb, there’s a real sharing economy in Toronto for those willing to look for it, some say.

While the two tech giants are often referred to as leaders in the emerging “sharing economy,” there’s a growing consensus that the label doesn’t apply.

“Whether you applaud these companies for the flexibility they offer or bemoan them for the job security they don’t, you should call them what they are: businesses with a bottom line,” wrote the authors of City Lab, in a post about buzzwords they’d like to see banished in 2016.

Ryan Dyment, founder of the Toronto Tool Library, couldn’t agree more.

“Everyone likes a hot new term. The ‘sharing economy’ is the term for now, but it’s confusing because it doesn’t really mean a lot,” Dyment said. “The concept of sharing is a lot closer to what we’re doing than what Uber and Airbnb do.”

Founded in 2012, the nonprofit tool library lends out a vast array of tools to its members, and teaches free classes on everything from woodworking to 3-D printing. They’ll be launching a crowdfunding campaign in the near future to expand their collection to include sporting goods, camping equipment, games and toys.

The profit motive – or lack thereof – aside, what really separates a company like Uber from the tool library and other places is a sense of community, Dyment said. Through its services and events, the organization has brought numerous people together to share, swap or learn with one another.

“When you really get down to sharing, it’s the people who are having potluck dinners or hosting clothing swaps at their house,” Dyment said. “Those things are undervalued. They’re not a big company that we write about in the headlines, but they’re the real sharing economy.”

Five ways to get your share on in Toronto

1. Toronto Tool Library

The library offers members access to more than 2,000 different tools at three locations.

2. Craigslist rideshares

Long before Uber, drivers and passengers were connecting on Craigslist to share rides – and the cost of gas.

3. Couchsurfing

Numbers have dropped, but there’s still a community of couchsurfers willing to trade a little cross-cultural experience for a spare bed.

4. Centre for Social Innovation

Toronto’s pre-eminent co-working spot lets members share office space and equipment.

5. Bunz Trading Zone

A sort of Facebook flea market, the group allows members to connect and swap just about anything. The only rule is that no money exchanges hands, but things like TTC tokens are fair game. 

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