A few months ago, I had a discussion with my brother & dad around the impending “economic reset” looming as a result of the European debt crisis.  So, we war-gamed scenarios, created new business ideas for the post-Euro world and poked a little fun at doomsday predictions.

Fast forward a few months into the future…while most countries in Euroland will probably not face extreme Depression era scenarios, 1 or 2 might (e.g. Greece) leaving the door open for some radical changes in society and business.

“People Powered hope” despite the gloom

Even if the economy blows up in Greece and contagion spreads, people today have more ways to bypass dysfunctional institutions via the web.  Heck, if the banks freeze up entirely, you can get a loan from a person in another country via Zopa.  People today can use existing assets and skills to save/make money, barter and transact via exciting new sharing sites & apps.  As sharing with strangers has become commonplace, peer to peer (P2P) sites like Vayable (community travel guides)  AirBnB (BnB hosting)  Skillshare (education) autonetzer (transportation) taskrabbit (community freelancing)  etc. have popped up everywhere.  All these sites take “micro-prenurialism” (from the early days of eBay and Craigslist) to the next level.  By opening up the possibility to share literally any kind of asset online (and make $$$) new P2P sites are helping disrupt traditional industries and empower people.

Reputation, community and shared access

Not only do “people-powered” sites put more $$$ in pockets during a downturn, they also help us build deeper relationships with those around us in the community.  Signing up for taskrabbit or dropping into a collaborative coworking space  helps us to reverse the absolutely depressing “Bowling Alone”  trend outlined and forecasted by Robert Putnam in the early noughties.

Rachel Botsman, a leading Collaborative Consumption thought leader, recently gave a talk (highly recommended) at the Wired 2011 conference where she demonstrated how the 21st century is going to be about collaborative consumption defined by reputation, community and shared access.  This is a great talk that ties together a lot of the trends discussed in this post.  Go and check it out!