Future of Sharing: Creating New Norms for the Way We Work Today

Natalie Foster, Co-Founder of Peers.org, is a strong proponent of creating a new social safety net outside the bounds of traditional employment. Foster, who is a Research Affiliate for the Future of Work Initiative at The Aspen Institute, believes that benefits and protections should be portable, prorated and universal. It is increasingly hard to imagine bringing back the unionized jobs that built the American middle class, Foster says. “Work is shifting away from protected jobs and towards service and retail sectors.”

The Workable Futures Initiative at Institute for the Future evaluates design principles of sharing economy platforms, and makes recommendations on how to apply design thinking to the labor side of the market. Foster believes that the blurring of the line between commercial and personal will require an iterative process of developing new regulations. “I think banning any of this is probably not going to work,” Foster said, referencing powerful constituencies affected by the sharing economy, including the people who have a new source of income and the people whose lives are made more expedient because of these services. “When we left the farms and went to the factories, we created entirely new norms for the way we work,” Foster said. “I think we’re on the cusp of needing to rethink the way we work today…Given that we’ve been here as a nation before, can we do better?”