What I’ve learned from home-swapping.

For the last few years, when my family takes vacations we have been swapping homes with people in the cities we visit. We did our first home swap a few years ago in San Francisco, last year we swapped with a couple in Paris, and this summer we’re swapping with families in Hamburg and Bergen, Norway.

It’s an amazing way to travel. Free accommodations mean that we can stay in expensive cities for longer. Being in a home means more space for us to enjoy than a hotel room affords, and we enjoy neighborhoods in cities we would not otherwise spend time in. We feel more like locals when we’re far from home.

Home-swapping makes me think of my early enthusiasm for the Sharing Economy. I still love the idea of sharing the idle capacity of things you own with other people, and owning things collectively through a co-op-like structure. This form of sharing creates reciprocal relationships and community, and reduces the need for so much stuff to be produced and consumed.

In the early days of the Sharing Economy, I was a major proponent of what this could mean for communities, for greater equity and environmental sustainability. I was surprised by how quickly the sharing economy gave way to value-extracting businesses like Uber and AirBnB.

I spend a lot of my working hours trying to ensure that we have a more equitable and sustainable local economy. I think about the velocity of money within a local economy so money recirculates and has a multiplier effect, creating more equitable distribution. Companies like Uber do provide work, but it is contract work, lacking the benefits that allow people a higher quality of life. In addition, profits are extracted out of local economies and into maximizing shareholder of people well outside where the work takes place.

I don’t use AirBnB anymore because I see the devastating effect it has on cities like Vancouver which have a housing crunch and near zero rental vacancy rates. I see in my own neighbourhood of Strathcona in Vancouver the rental units that used to provide stable, long-term rental to individuals and families get permanently taken off the market and turned into more profitable AirBnB accommodation. This isn’t having a healthy effect on the livability and viability of our city. (Vancouver has a vacancy rate near zero and 6.2% average annual rental rate increases.) That isn’t a form of sharing I recognize as ethical or desirable.

I sit on the board of Modo Co-operative, which allows 20,000 drivers to share over 600 cars. As a co-operative, there is no private ownership, those cars are a community asset. If Modo were to dissolve, the assets would be bequeathed to another community-owned organization like a not-for-profit. I work for Vancity, where half a million member-owners pool their money for local reinvestment. It is now a $26.4 Billion pool owned by the community, not private ownership. No one profits inequitably from those community resources. That is more in line with what I originally loved about the sharing economy.

So we have discovered home-swapping as a way of truly living out the early (and unfortunately false) promise of the sharing economy. No money changes hands, trust is required and reciprocity is created. I recommend it highly if you need your faith in humanity restored.

Modo Co-op Elections

The election season at Modo, the local car sharing co-operative, is getting underway. We’re currently looking for candidates to stand for our upcoming election. As board chair at Modo, I wrote a blog post explaining why I initially ran to be on the Modo board and why I enjoy being on the board so much.

If you’re a Modo member, are interested in co-ops, mobility, the sharing economy, transportation issues in our local communities, and getting some good board experience, consider running for the Modo co-op board. It’s an opportunity I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Check out my post on the Modo blog.

And if you’re considering running for the board, see our call for nominations

What’s your money doing right now?

I wrote a piece about Vancity’s business model and our support for Modo as an example of that.

Here in B.C., we think about how our actions affect our community. We watch how we consume and recycle, we shop locally, we compost, and we’re concerned about our effects on the planet.

I say “we” because we know from a recent poll that in B.C. 98% of us say we recycle all or some of the time; 89% of us read ingredients to make healthy food choices, and 52% of us commute in an environmentally responsible way. A third of us say that we research the ethics of companies we are considering purchasing from.

Check out the whole post

Running for the Modo board, again.

It’s been three years since I first ran for the Board of Modo, our local car sharing co-operative. Serving on the Modo board has been an immense privilege and pleasure. It’s an amazing organization, a great board, incredible staff and an important mission. It’s what I’ll likely be speaking about at the upcoming Disruption ’17 by CU Water Cooler conference.

I’m privileged to have been the board chair for the last couple of years, and hope to continue serving the members as I run for my second term as a volunteer director. If you’re a Modo member, please log in and vote, and, hey, if you’re voting, please consider voting for me.

Here’s my election statement and video for my re-election…

I’m William Azaroff, vice president of community investment at Vancity and current chair of Modo Co-operative’s volunteer board of directors. I’m up for re-election this year, and I hope you’ll vote for me to continue serving Modo’s membership.

I’m extremely proud to be a part of the Modo board. In the three years since my election, we have successfully merged with Victoria Carshare Co-op, brought in new leadership and renewed our strategic planning process.

Patrick Nangle came to Modo from Purolator Canada, where he was also CEO. He is a values-based leader whose deep knowledge of business, operations and technology will move our co-op forward in the increasingly complex and competitive world of car sharing.

With Patrick on board, we have begun a new strategic planning process to map out which roads are right for us. We are at a pivotal time in car sharing. Our local co-operative has a strong brand, loyal members and solid partnerships; yet our competitors are multi-national corporations who have the deepest pockets imaginable. Disruption is everywhere. Electric vehicles have far longer ranges and more affordable price points; self-driving cars are emerging on roads; and multi-modal transportation is expanding and evolving. We need people on our board who can solidify a local co-op’s place amongst global players – people who can focus on competing against corporate giants while staying true to our core values.

I would be honoured to earn your vote to continue this good work on behalf of the Modo membership.

Guest appearance on co-op radio.

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I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been wanting to be a guest on Robin Puga‘s local radio show, Each For All for some time now. It’s a show on Vancouver’s co-op radio station about, you guessed it, co-ops.

Well tonight was my lucky night, because I was invited to be on the show as the Board Chair of Modo along with our great CEO, Nathalie Baudoin to speak about car sharing, the co-operative model and where we’re going.

It was archived for your listening pleasure, so check it out… (Note: the archive of the show has expired.)