–This has been in the works for way too long!– I want you to rethink the concept of sharing, through an interview with sharing evangelist, Neal Gorenflo. Neal is a Corporate America dropout who has established himself as an expert in sharing. The shortlist for Neal’s credentials includes: His expertise has been featured on NBC Nightly News, Fast Company and the Today Show. He has spoken at tech conferences such as South By SouthWest, and he has consulted for Stanford University, Loews Home Improvement and many different startups. Last, but certainly not least, he is the co-editor of Share or Die: Voices of The Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis as well as Policies for Shareable Cities, both of which I fully recommend that everyone check out! Mr. Gorenflo is a true pioneer for the sharing of information that can make our lives easier and allow us to be happier people in a happier society. As a vehicle for his mission, Neal Co-founded Shareable.net, an amazing resource that encapsulates how sharing can change the world for the better. I have had the wonderful opportunity to speak with and collaborate with him over the past 2 years. I also had the chance to sit down with him at a little cafe in Palo Alto last summer to really get an understanding of his mission and why he has dedicated his life to getting us to share more. Recently, Neal kindly agreed to participate in this short interview and I am very grateful for the opportunity to publish it. Enjoy!
Interview With Neal Gorenflo:
Pat: What inspired you to launch www.shareable.net? Was there a specific moment or life event?
Neal:Yes, I had a moment of satori during a jog in a business park outside of Brussels airport on a Saturday in June 2004. I was on a business trip staying over the weekend at an airport hotel. I stopped in the parking lot of an abandoned warehouse, began to cry, and realized I would never be the type of person, have the type of life, or nurture the type of relationships I wanted while living to earn and spend the corporate lifestyle. I was successful on paper but lonely and bored. My creative potential was unfulfilled. I felt that at even at middle age I hadn’t become myself or even started to live. I wanted my life to be a true adventure. I took a vow to create a life and world where it was easy to find love, meaningful work, community, and great conversations. I knew sharing was key to this, so I ran back to my hotel room, sent in my letter of resignation, and caught the first flight home to San Francisco to start a life based on sharing.
Shareable is a wonderful tool that helps people understand the value in sharing information. Can you elaborate on the types of information that can be shared and the different ways in which we can share that information?
On the news front, we publish stories about the latest sharing innovations, especially ones that disrupt the dominant economic narrative which says there’s no alternative to economic growth, competition, and capitalism as we know it. We highlight enterprises, communities, and cities that take their economic destiny into their own hands, that run on people power instead of capital and competition, and that thrive as a result.
On the movement building front, we started the Sharing Cities Network two years ago to connect sharing activists to build strong local sharing movements in cities around the world. We’ve catalyzed around 300 sharing-related events reaching 30,000 people since starting the network. You can connect to the network here and find sharing-related events near you here.
No, this doesn’t pose a threat to us because all our original content is Creative Commons licensed. Anyone can republish our original content on their blog, even commercial sites. We reach nearly 100,000 readers per month on Shareable.net, but through Creative Commons syndication we reach at least ten times this. Creative Commons is crucial to helping us achieve our mission. Our success with Creative Commons has inspired similar organizations to open up their content for sharing.
Too much of anything can be bad. There are some things that are unhygienic to share. And sharing too much personal information can create problems with friends and employers. You apply common sense to sharing as anything else in life.
With social media, we know so much about each other– more than we ever have previously. Social media also makes the sharing of all types of information seamless. What are your thoughts on social media and the major role it plays in the sharing of information? In the future, how might we share information differently?
Social media helps us know a lot of information about each other, but does it help us know the most important things about ourselves and others? I don’t think so. I think you need to use social media carefully or it can distract you from the important things in life. In fact, you can become immobilized by a flood of social media messages. If, for example, you use it to find and pursue your purpose in life, it can be a good thing.
The Book, “Share or Die, Voices of the Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis”, focuses on Generation Y. How would a talk regarding the sharing of information differ when dealing with people from different generations? How about sharing across generations and cultures?
I think millennials are an interesting mix of idealism and pragmatism. They want a better world, but the old ideologies, political parties, and methods for change don’t necessarily click with them. They are solutions oriented. Results and first hand experience mean a lot to them. They don’t want the baggage of towing the party line when making things happen. They don’t want to take someone’s word for how to make the world a better place. They want to find out for themselves and everyone is invited to help regardless of their background.
When it comes to the sharing movement, Shareable is a good source of information and way to share it too. I also recommend our partners OuiShare, P2P Foundation, People Who Share, Creative Commons, and Share the World Resources.
For more info on Neal Gorenflo and to learn more on getting involved with the sharing movement, definitely head over to shareable.net!
Additional Thoughts: Our parents typically taught us the invaluable life lesson of sharing through play dates and the idea that we should share our toys. Kids that shared well were considered to be nice and kids that did not were typically labeled “selfish brats.” As we grew up, our application of the concept of sharing became more diverse. We shared food at lunch, notes in class (or test answers) or secrets (which by default were no longer secrets). As adults, the fundamental idea of sharing is not any less relevant and quite common in our daily lives. Now, we share information more than anything tangible. Whether through social media or word of mouth, we all engage in massive sharing of information of all types. We share recipes, life-hacks, DIY projects or news articles/political op-eds, and the cooler the better. The most common channels are digitally, through internet sites, forums and social media as well as face to face through story telling, debating and sometimes arguing. This all determines how information spreads through a community and throughout the world. The ultimate point of the interview with Neal and this post altogether, is to bring attention to the importance of sharing quality information in our everyday lives and to highlight that going forward, the sharing of information may very well be the vehicle that drives collective growth for us and future generations. At LGBG our mission has always been to share knowledge as it pertains to sustainability in our lives and the world as a whole. As we learn and grow, we MUST share our experiences and findings with the direct intention of helping others to learn and to grow. I challenge everyone to rethink the concept of sharing and make an effort to actively share useful information. If you read this far, I thank you as always. Additionally, if you found this post to be at all interesting I ask you to keep in line with the theme and please share!