The history of sharing cities

The story of the Sharing Cities started in 2012. Below you can travel back in time starting with the third Sharing Cities Summit that took place during November 2018 in Barcelona, and beyond.


november 2018: Third sharing cities summit

During November 2018, Barcelona hosted the third Sharing Cities Summit. During this summit conversations started at the Summits in New York City (2017) and Amsterdam (2016) continued. The event again convened Mayors, Deputy Mayors and city officials from leading cities all over the world to discuss how the continuous development of the sharing and platform economy affects cities, and what innovative measures can be taken to meet the challenges and opportunities cities face. The Summit took place the day before the start of the Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC, 13-15 November, 2018) where one of the tracks was dedicated to Sharing and Inclusive Cities. 

All the openly available materials collected by the city of Barcelona are available on the event website.

In 2017, the Sharing Cities Alliance was officially launched at the Sharing Cities Summit ('Share 2017') hosted by New York City's Deputy Mayor, Alicia Glen. New York, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Seoul, and Toronto become the founding partners.


Sharing the sharing city experience

From the moment Amsterdam was declared Europe’s first Sharing City early 2015, interest from cities and other organizations from all over the globe exploded. It led the initiators Pieter and Harmen to European cities like Antwerp, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Ghent, London, Madrid, Milan, Oslo, Paris and Rome. More recently they have also been to cities outside Europe like Seoul, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Taipei, Toronto, Singapore and Quito. Today, Harmen van Sprang, Pieter van de Glind and Sharing Cities change agents are in contact with cities from all continents. With an immense interest from cities, the idea of the ‘Sharing Cities Alliance’ emerged; an independent foundation to foster further city-to-city learning and to help cities become truly sharing cities. Moreover, the Municipality of Amsterdam itself again practiced what they preached: in May 2016, former vice mayor Kajsa Ollongren invited her colleagues from several cities around the world, like Paris, Copenhagen, Barcelona, New York City and Seoul, to attend a Sharing City Roundtable to address both opportunities and challenges and to collaborate on shared principles.

The sharing city network multiplies

2016 Ended with a swift increase in the number of the worlds sharing cities as seven cities from Korea and another five cities from Japan signed their own Sharing City declarations, explicitly following Seoul and Amsterdam’s examples. Internationally organizations such as the OECD and the WEF have recognized the opportunities and challenges of the platform & sharing economy. And more and more national governments, including China, have made it par of their core strategies. Europe will not stay behind as large city networks such as Eurocities dedicated their annual summit to the theme of Sharing Cities, resulting in many cities motivated to get going in 2017. Several national governments and the European Union are now coming with their take on the sharing economy. The European Commission published a ‘European agenda for the collaborative economy’ in June this year, ‘issuing guidance to help consumers, businesses and public authorities in the growing collaborative economy.’

SHAring cities in the european union

During November 2016, the European Commission came to Amsterdam to co-host an all-day ‘Collaborative Economy Workshop’ together with shareNL. They involved their network of startups, enterprises, governments and knowledge institutions. After a day in the same room it became very clear to the delegates of the European Commission that Amsterdam and the Netherlands are leaders in the field. From this position also comes an obligation, which is to inspire and inform others how make the most of the platform & sharing economy and bring ambitions into action. This is exactly what the city change agents behind the Alliance will will continue to do through the Sharing Cities Alliance. But now on a global scale, sharing the experiences of sharing cities worldwide.

The Launch of Amsterdam Sharing City

Early 2015, all ambassadors convened and together they officially launched Amsterdam Sharing City. The municipality was involved from the very beginning. They already stood out by being one of the first municipalities in the world to develop regulations around Airbnb. And from the moment Pieter and Harmen approached the City’s Chief Technology Officer (Ger Baron) and former vice mayor Kajsa Ollongren, they were enthusiastic. As Ollongren, also Alderman of Economic Affairs, put it during the launch:

"The consumer has in recent years become
increasingly powerful. The sharing economy is a huge opportunity.
It just fits well with Amsterdam.
That’s why we want to be known as a Sharing City." 

One of the first things the Municipality of Amsterdam did was putting together a so-called ‘Action Plan Sharing Economy.’ With this Action Plan, officially launched earlier this year, the Mayor and Executive Board of the City of Amsterdam ‘give space to the opportunities the sharing economy offers to the city.’ They want to ‘stimulate the sharing economy where possible, without losing sight of any excesses. Risks include an uneven playing field or a lack of social security.’ Well-balanced set: ‘The sharing economy is not a question of ban or authorize, but of monitor and seize opportunities where possible.’ This proactive attitude towards the sharing economy encourages activities that will benefit ‘innovation, social inclusiveness, sustainability and entrepreneurship.’ The City also has an open approach to the sharing economy platforms and tries to collaborate with them as much as possible. The local government welcomes disruption, ‘wherever this strengthens the city and can benefit its inhabitants.’ However, the City will intervene if ‘unwelcome situations arise as a result of particular initiatives.’ It’s this continuous search for balance between the opportunities and the challenges that might well form part of the success of Amsterdam as a home for the sharing economy.

Amsterdam Sharing City Launch 1.jpg

Pilot projects by the municipality

As the adage says: ‘practice what you preach.’ Which means that the Municipality not only gives space to the sharing economy, it also started with several pilot projects itself. From sharing transportation to sharing office spaces, the City started piloting with it. Another example, more about social inclusiveness, is a current pilot where the sharing economy is linked to the ‘City Pass.’ The City Pass gives 180,000 Amsterdam residents, many elderly or on low incomes, access to several services in the city. By linking the sharing economy to the City Pass, its holders will have access to even a greater and often more affordable palette of products and services, like local food, goods and care. It’s partly this leading position towards the sharing economy that made Amsterdam into the European Capital of Innovation.’ 

You can deep-dive into a stack of information about Amsterdam Sharing City here.


While shareNL is working hard on making Amsterdam into a Sharing City, the first view European cities are slowly warming up for the idea as well. Pieter and Harmen, as well as other platform & sharing economy experts are giving a number of presentations in various countries.

Cities in the United States line up

The United States Conference of Mayors - a body consisting of the mayors of US cities with more than 30.000 inhabitants - signed a Sharing City Resolution to make their cities more shareable:


that The United States Conference of Mayors urges
support for making cities more shareable by (1) encouraging a better
understanding of the Sharing Economy and its benefits
to both the public and private sectors by creating
more robust and standardized methods for measuring its impacts in
cities; (2) creating local task forces to review and address
regulations that may hinder participants in the Sharing Economy
and proposing revisions that ensure public protection as well;
and (3) playing an active role in making appropriate publicly
owned assets available for maximum utilization by the general
public through proven sharing mechanisms ("


Launch of share NL and the birth of Amsterdam Sharing City

During the summer of 2013, Harmen van Sprang and Pieter van de Glind co-founded shareNL. It was only months later during autumn 2013 when Harmen and Pieter, both living and working in Amsterdam, started working on their idea to make Amsterdam into a Sharing City. Inspired by Seoul and by their own research which demonstrated an enormous willingness amongst ‘Amsterdammers’ to share: more than 84%, Pieter and Harmen started composing their vision for their city, a Sharing City. A city that utilizes the opportunities the sharing economy offers in the areas of for instance sustainability, social cohesion and economic resilience. But also a city that aims to formulate answers to the challenges this new and rapidly growing phenomenon entails. Part of the plan of Van de Glind and Van Sprang was not only to come up with a vision, but also to create a network of ‘ambassadors’ throughout the city. In their eyes, the city is formed by not only its citizens and the municipality. Not in the least, also entrepreneurs, corporations and for example knowledge institutions shape the city of today. So what the co-founders of shareNL did, was involving all these stakeholders and let them access the network of ambassadors.

Seoul, the world’s first ‘Sharing City’

The story of Sharing Cities starts at the Seoul Metropolitan Government. The Mayor of Seoul, mister Park Won-soon recognized there were limits to continuing the growth of the city in the way it was always done. For Seoul to thrive in the 21st century, new models were needed. Even if it was still in a quite early stage, the sharing economy was starting to take off in various countries around the world. Looking for ways to build a resilient economy, stronger social cohesion and a more sustainable and liveable city, Mayor Park Won-soon was the first to match the sharing economy with ‘the city’, turning Seoul into the world’s first ‘Sharing City:’ You can read a lot more about Seoul Sharing City on the website from our partner organization in South-Korea: shareHUB.

“The Seoul Metropolitan Government proclaimed the
Sharing City Seoul initiative on September 20, 2012,
along with a plan to implement sharing projects closely
related to the lives of citizens and to establish and broaden
the foundation for sharing. Seoul Metropolitan Government sees
the Sharing City Seoul initiative as social innovation measures
designed to create new economic opportunities, to restore reliable
relationships, and to reduce waste of resources with a view to
resolving economic, social, and environmental problems
in urban areas all together” (


Soon after the sharing economy gained momentum a non-profit from the United States called Shareable started pioneering the idea of ‘shareable cities.’ Their work culminated in a 2013 report called: ‘Policies for Shareable Cities’ and their 2018 publication titled: ‘Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons.’ Throughout the past decade, including throughout its most early stages, Shareable has played a kickstarting role in the global Sharing Cities movement. The fact that Shareable has (partly) inspired Seoul, to become the world’s first Sharing City, and the active involvement of Shareable’s co-founder Neal Gorenflo in process of turning Amsterdam into the world’s second Sharing City are telling examples.