Buenos Aires, Argentina — The sharing economy has changed how many people lend, buy and share goods and services around the world. From airbnb, to Etsy and Lyft, there are lessons to be learned, both good and bad, from how entrepreneurs have innovated and disrupted business-as-usual in many sectors of the global economy.

But can we use the sharing economy model to drive inclusive development in Latin America? That was the question at the forefront of Innovation Lab and the Towards Collaborative Cities Conference, two days of events in Buenos Aires last week supported by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Counterpart International, CIVICUS, the Argentinian Network for International Cooperation (RACI) and the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies for Equity and Growth, (CIPPEC).

“A revolution is taking place in development, both at the national and international level. The world is changing rapidly because of the internet. And while this can be a challenge, it is also an opportunity to connect millions in moments, to disrupt old models and to more efficiently connect to and use resources,” explained Cesar Buenadicha, Lead Project Specialist from the IDB.

This revolution is being led by entrepreneurs like Cristian Lara, the creator of Reciclapp. A Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) fellow from Chile, Cristian created Reciclapp to make recycling easier in a country that has struggled to go green. The mobile app connects users to the available recycling agencies in their municipalities. Paid for by the municipalities, it makes recycling easier for the user and collection easier for local governments. Today, some 100,000 Chileans from five cities are using the application and it just recently started operations in two cities in Bolivia.

Cristian and nine other YLAI fellows hosted spark talks with members of the Latin America and Caribbean Hub of Innovation for Change. They kicked off the Innovation Lab with rounds of “speed-geeking.” This gave participants the opportunity to form ad-hoc groups around innovative ideas in global development. “The YLAI fellows were a real highlight of the day. Their energy, enthusiasm, and intellectual creativity really connected with the participants,” said Noel Dickover, Project Director at Counterpart International.

Innovation for Change is a growing global network of people, online hubs and regional centers in Africa, Central Asia, East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa and South Asia. These shared working spaces – both physical and virtual – are places where people and organizations can connect and exchange ideas, debate challenges and create solutions to some of the challenges facing our societies.

During a one-hour breakout session at the Innovation Lab, Innovation for Change members and Gabriel Alborta, the YLAI fellow from Bolivia, designed the core of a mobile application they named, Comunidad Activa. The app would directly connect community residents with representatives of their local government. In this way, area residents would be more involved in decision-making processes that effect their local community. Gabriel explained that government officials sometimes implement policies they think are best for the communities they represent, without consulting those effected by them. “The solution to the problem is this – a collaborative network between citizens and government!”

The Innovation Lab was followed on June 9 by the Towards Collaborative Cities conference. Nearly 300 participants listened to speakers from both the public and private sectors including, Rudi Borrman, the Argentinian Minister of Modernization, Gustavo Palacios of ShareCollab, and Matias Arturo of Accenture.

The purpose of the conference was to advance discussion around how technology and the collaborative economy can contribute to a more inclusive and equitable society in Latin American and Caribbean cities. The room was full of young, hopeful entrepreneurs and students, hungry to collaborate among their peers and to discuss the future of their region.

For Guillermo Correa, the Executive Director of RACI and the main organizer of the Towards Collaborative Cities Conference, the event was a breakthrough. “Today is important, because in this room, we have gathered together entrepreneurs, decision makers and civil society activists to plan and transform the future of Latin America. These young men and women are the future of development because they see how disruptive technology can be used to advance the rights of women, indigenous and LGBTQ communities and to incentivize green economies. And that’s the kind of future that RACI wants to see for Latin America.”

For downloadable photos from the conference, please visit our Flickr album


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