Sharefest Ghent: the Grassroots Sharing Economy Gets Creative

Today the success stories of AirBnB, BlaBlaCar, Lyft, and others are already well known. The rise of these initiatives is just one side of the sharing economy. In many neighborhoods, peer-initiatives are flourishing. Something new is happening – the rise of active citizenship, people identifying themselves with their neighborhood, working on social cohesion – a renaissance of neighborhoods and bringing people together who believe in each other. At least this is happening in the Belgian city of Ghent where local initiatives received a big window: a very successful sharefest took place this September.

The Festival’s Beginnings: Car-Sharing

3 years ago Mpact, a Belgian social profit organization, enabler of sharing since 1975, decided to organize a sharefest, together with Autopia, a Flemish peer-to-peer car-sharing initiative. In the 1st edition, there was a strong focus on car-sharing. The sharefest was an alternative motor show for shared cars, “parodying” traditional motor shows, with some other collaborative economy projects. But the first sharefest was born and paved the way for other grassroots initiatives.
Repair Cafe at Sharefest Ghent

The Sharing Economy Goes Grassroots and Gets Creative

In September 2013 the 3rd edition was a real success story. Approximately 3,000 people visited the sharefest, in the city center, during the Car Free Sunday. Not a parody anymore, as the sharing economy grew up. There was a good balance between different types of sharing initiatives, and lots of  fun. People visited the fest to get engaged, to follow their curiosity, and participating in the attractions:

  • Animation for children
  • Creative hair cutters
  • A surrealistic Anti-Share lobby, done by actors. You could sign a petition against the collaborative economy. One problem, the lobbyists didn’t share their pen, which made it difficult to sign.
  • A share bar: buying one drink was not allowed
  • A repair café
  • Book swapping

The sharefest created many opportunities: neighborhoods could inspire each other, people got in contact with many projects and organizations, representatives from the city council got a better understanding of the real potential of the collaborative economy, and the media used this momentum to make in-depth reports.

All credits go to Autopia, and Netwerk Bewust Verbruiken, a network for consumer awareness, the organizers of this 3rd edition. They organized this event with much creativity, passion and understanding of the sharing economy. With support of the City of Ghent, the Flemish minister of transport, and Fonds Duurzaam Materialenbeheer, they succeeded in making the 3rd edition a real success: too successful to not share it!

So, what about a sharefest in your city?

Video of Sharefest Ghent

This article was published by Mpact at, to inspire other cities as part of the Interreg North-Sea region Project: Care-North+, a project about energy-efficient strategies for the future with focus on transport.