Since the beginning of the European refugee crisis in 2014, we have all been confronted with the emerging problems occurring in European members states. News items are covered with disturbing headlines, including: “More than 110,000 asylum seekers crossed the Mediterranean to Europe in 2016” and “EU failure to cope with refugee crisis threatens its very survival”. Although everyone is aware of the increasing flow of refugees into Europe, it might be rejuvenating to re-watch the widespread explanatory video of “The European Refugee Crisis and Syria”.
In particular, Germany is the European member state that faces the greatest refugee influx. During the year of 2015, Germany registered more than 964,574 new asylum seekers. Unfortunately, it is expected that the refugee influx in Germany (and other European member states) will not stagnate in 2016. As the number of refugees increases, severe housing problems will escalate. The founders of “Refugees Welcome” tried to create a solution for this rising problem.
“Refugees Welcome” is an online platform that aims to connect refugees, who are seeking for asylum, with inhabitants, who have a spare accommodation. It is an Airbnb-like platform that is based upon the notion of the ‘sharing economy’. The sharing economy is ‘the peer-to-peer-based activity of obtaining, giving, or sharing the access to goods and services, coordinated through community-based online services’ (Hamari et al., 2015). The objective of “Refugees Welcome” is to respond to people’s needs by enabling and scaling up activities in a different and more effective way. They are convinced that refugees should not be excluded from society, but that refugees should be offered a warm welcome into Europe. Currently, the platform is available in 10 countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Greece, Austria, and even Canada, and 531 refugees have been matched so far.
How does the platform work?
The question is why people would participate in the “Refugees Welcome” platform? First of all, people who are dissatisfied with how refugees are being treated might feel the urge to positively contribute to the community. Secondly, they have a spare accommodation available, and they feel it is the ‘right thing to do’ (Bateman et al., 2011).
Another interesting question that arises is how this platform is funded? “Refugees Welcome” is a non-profit organization that receives funding on a donation basis. Donation-based funding means that they “receive contributions without being required to provide anything of value in return” (Tsekouras, 2016). An overview of the available options is given below:
While hosts need to cover the rent, “Refugees Welcome” assists them in finding financial support through micro-donations (i.e. small donations on a monthly basis) from friends and family or through government funding. Additionally, you can financially support another host through micro-donations if you do not intend (or are eligible) to host a refugee yourself.
Currently, the founders state that “whether you live in a flatshare with friends or in a family home, anyone can sign up” (Refugees Welcome, 2016). However, the organization should carefully consider various institutional arrangements, including user verifications, guarantees, and rules and regulations. If these institutional arrangements are correctly defined, the joint benefits of the platform and its efficiency will subsequently become apparent. Additionally, “the sharing economy platforms pose some serious challenges to national and EU regulatory frameworks. Their positive or negative impacts on economic growth, employment and environment still need to be assessed” (Blogs of the European Commission, 2016).
In conclusion, the “Refugees Welcome” sharing economy platform is an interesting development that may assist European member states in the reduction of housing problems. However, the benefits and implications of this platform need to be assessed in further detail.
References and sources
Bateman, P. J., Gray, P. H., & Butler, B. S. (2011). Research note-the impact of community commitment on participation in online communities. Information Systems Research, 22(4), 841-854.
Carson, S. J., Devinney, T. M., Dowling, G. R., & John, G. (1999). Understanding institutional designs within marketing value systems. The Journal of Marketing, 115-130.
Hamari, J., Sjöklint, M., & Ukkonen, A. (2015). The sharing economy: Why people participate in collaborative consumption. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology.