What is Task-for-Task?
Breaking off from the umbrella of the shared economy, is the task-for-task group. Task-for-task is an exchange of errands between two individuals. Though the main principle is based around rewarding each other with tasks, individuals cannot function in today’s society, without money flow, and therefore, sometimes bring in money for the exchange. Looking at three different organizations, the shared economy, is proven to be a beneficial source of exchange. The first task-for-task group is TaskRabbit. TaskRabbit is “an online and mobile marketplace, that matches freelance labor with local demand, allowing consumers to find convenient help with everyday tasks” (Wiki). This program helps focus in on the economic factors of the sharing economy. The second group is Simbi, they label themselves as a symbiotic economy. A symbiotic economy is a mutually dependent system. While this company is a mutually dependent system, they also offer a social aspect that appeals to the population. Finally, B-line, is a transportation company, focused on “redefin[ing] how goods and services are transported in our increasingly urban environment by simply providing the right tool for the job” (B-Line). This company makes use of the “go green” attitude of today’s society, bringing in an environmental feature to the sharing economy. Overall these task-for-task groups have a major impact in the shared economy and on our society as a whole. They have proven that there is more to the way that people interact, than more of a basic level.
TaskRabbit (Economic Factor)
Watch how TaskRabbit participants interact with the community around them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlUvHQwLT7k
As briefly mentioned above,
there are three separate aspects to the shared economy (task-for-task). TaskRabbit contributes to how individuals connect with one another on a basic exchange level. In 2008, 28 year old Leah
Busque, an engineer at IBM in Cambridge, Massachusetts was in need of dog food for her yellow lab, however she did not want to trudge outside in the cold night air (Wired). This inspired the creation of what is now known as TaskRabbit, a company that was originally called “RunMyErrand” on the basis that individuals can run errands for each other. Once a person decides they need an errand run for them “TaskRabbit senders and runners [will] negotiate with one another through TaskRabbit’s messaging system.” (Wired) It starts with the person in need of an errand (the sender) posts on the TaskRabbit forum, along with their maximum amount they are willing to pay for the labor. Next, the “runners” begin bidding. They bid the minimum amount they are willing to accept, and wait for the sender to choose. The sender has full view of the bidders and can choose on their own based off credentials, reviews, proximity and pricing. After the sender chose their runner, the task is accomplished within a short period of time. The next phase is based off of the “top rankings of each runner” which comes from the senders. It is a matter of points based on reviews, bidding, and number of tasks. Based on the website, the incentive for runners is to earn as many points as possible in order to gather both tangible and virtual benefits. TaskRabbit “turns work into a game.” (Wired)
TaskRabbit creates connections amongst individuals who would not necessarily interact otherwise. It allows for both the elderly and the young to work together to form a positive and enriching community. Though, society has created the idea of “stranger danger”, TaskRabbit pulls away from this idea, making a comfortable and safe environment for people to work alongside each other, in effort to build a trusting economy. This program instigates a helping mindset for all who use it. It is a virtual site for individuals who wish to participate in a different form of volunteering. Ultimately, TaskRabbit is a growing program using technology as its foundation to build a community for the sharing economy.
A big part of TaskRabbit is the game-like process. Much of this is seen through the points system, giving each errand some economic value. TaskRabbit is similar to an occupation. A person starts at the bottom of the career chain and is able to work their way up to the top. One remarkable aspect about the company is the way it benefits the individual, as well as the community around it.
“For the runners, meanwhile, at a time of deep and persistent unemployment, the site serves as a way to make regular money without giving up control of their days. Unlike a temp service — which sets workers’ rates and presents them to employers — TaskRabbit lets workers get hired directly by consumers and thereby build up their own reputations” (Wired).
Economically, TaskRabbit offers a new way of living into today’s society. Branching from traditional professions, this program provides the opportunity for individuals to work independently as their own bosses. TaskRabbit is a way for people to have an independent job and still have the benefit of promoting oneself. Interestingly enough, this way of applying oneself to the workforce has struck an appeal for people of all practices. Much like a promotion in one’s career, runners are able to “level up” through a points system. In addition to the intention of helping others, this system instigates competition for earning more points and employment. The monetary benefits of TaskRabbit provide an interesting lens into potentially what or how future businesses will be run. Relating back to what Wired stated, TaskRabbit truly does “turn grunt work into a game”.
Simbi (Social Factor)
Take a sneak peak into the world of Simbi: https://vimeo.com/130821893
Simbi is a new up and coming task for task program. They call themselves a “symbiotic economy”. Much like TaskRabbit, Simbi works towards a “golden rule”-like manifesto, where participants give to get. In reference to Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb’s book, The Hidden Injuries of Class, Simbi takes on an individualistic quality to form an overall connected community that focuses on one another and their achievements. The authors discuss the idea of one’s badges of ability and how they are influential on the many aspects of a person’s success. These badges of abilities can consist of anything from awards to personal accomplishments to your level of education. Focusing on Simbi, these badges of ability allow people to see what tasks others can handle, while also expressing their own personal talents. Along with this, Simbi also gives a person virtual badges as a reward system.
Socially, Simbi offers a way for members to exchange services with one another, which for some is more valuable than receiving money. A unique aspect of Simbi is the community they build in the cities where they are established. This is seen through their Facebook page, where they post social gatherings and community builders for Simbi members to attend. This is particularly different from any other task-for-task program. They target goal is to bring individuals, who are more interested in “participating in an alternative economy that provides and exit from the current dollar-dominated corporate.” (Simbi, Francisco) This individual puts a perspective on how this organization works socially. As for within the shared economy, Simbi’s role is still developing, and creating its foundations as an exchange system in society. Altogether Simbi works towards a social community where they can rely on one another to provide specialized services.
B-Line (Environmental Factors)
B-Line offers a different aspect to the task-for-task community, as an energy efficient delivery system. As a newly graduate college student, with a major in history and environmental studies, Franklin Jones biked across the world, starting his impact on the global environment. In creating B-line, Jones took into consideration the climate conditions of several cities. He decided that in order to have a successful cycling-based company, Jones needed a somewhat temperate climate, leading to his moving to Portland. In 2009, Franklin Jones created B-line, continuing his influence and love of the environment. It has stayed locally in Portland, with a staff of fifteen people. Despite its slow start-up, B-line is growing and becoming more well-known.
“The company was selected as a winner of the Oregon Next Generation Companies Awards. This program recognizes businesses that employ industry-leading strategies in the way they manage their employees, generate profit and pursue environmental economic sustainability. Jones was also a panelist at the GoGreen Conference, a sustainable leadership summit held in Portland.” (B-Line)
With B-line’s environmentally friendly purpose and growing sustainability it is becoming a more recognized small business.
B-line begins to solve the challenges that conventional trucks and vans face in getting to the “last mile”. The tricycles used by the delivery staff have the ability to get through narrow alleyways, and avoid major traffic, unlike many delivery vehicles. The use of tricycles for transportation and delivery reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help lower levels of pollution in the air. This energy efficient program brings a new light to task-for-task. As mentioned previously, B-line’s core values and manifesto provide a clear vision and inspiration as a model for future environmentally conscious companies.
Is the Task-for-Task Sustainable?
Taking a look at the way in which individuals with freelance lifestyles and small business owners operate, there are several characteristics that can be seen across the board that fall in both the pros and cons categories.
- Flexible scheduling
- Ability to work for multiple companies
- Freedom from constraint of a 9-5 office job
- Hourly pay can be set as wanted
- Entrepreneurs working together
- Pay can be insufficient
- No health insurance, disability, or retirement
- Cost of jobs– such as mileage and car maintenance– is not reimbursed
- Scheduling dictated by peak demand on the map
- Difficult on understanding task obligations
- Difficulty finding enough hours
Looking at the pros and cons of the task-for-task system in the sharing economy, the question comes up of whether this idea is sustainable and beneficial. It also brings in the aspects of equality in the system. In order for task-for-task to be successful for an individual, the person needs to already have had a career and made a living for themselves. In programs like TaskRabbit and Simbi there is no guarantee that one can make a career off their skills and tasks they perform. This brings up a class issue. One must have the money to provide the service, whether that is teaching music lessons or housekeeping, the person must have their own supplies. This means lower class may not have a chance to be successful. Task-for-task is indirectly class and monetary based. Middle and high class people have the money to provide these services, but lower class don’t get off as easily.
Overall considering task-for-task’s connection with communities; it has shown no significant impacts thus far, due to its online social networking foundation. It could potentially cause gentrification seeing as most of these programs are located in major cities across the world. This would cause participants in the program to feel the need to move from rural areas to urban or suburban communities, in order to gain the perks of task-for-task. As task-for-task grows in popularity there is a chance for the programs to adapt and cater to the needs of rural regions. Therefore, it will be interesting to see what the future of the sharing economy holds for this aspect of task-for-task.
All in all, task-for-task is a progressive program that is focused on bringing a community together for the benefit of aiding one another. Using TaskRabbit, Simbi, and B-line, one can see the economic, social, and environmental factors brought by task-for-task programs. Each organization has specific characteristics that set them apart from one another, and other shared economy companies. TaskRabbit shared a game-like aspect through a complicated points system. Simbi presented a way to be social while helping one another. And B-Line serves as a middleman between larger corporate businesses as an environmental conscious delivery system. These programs do have their downfalls, with inequality of the class system, and location. But prove to be a prosperous systems, focused on bring people together. The future of the sharing economy has great potential especially if they stick to the three core aspects: social, economic, and environmental. By doing so, they can ensure success for the companies, while providing to the people, creating a healthy balance between the two.
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