Interview with Maria Hakkarainen and José-Carlos García-Rosell from Shareable Tourism

A new project “Responsibility and value creation in the sharing economy” (Vastuullisuus ja arvonluonti jakamistaloudessa) started in September 2020 at the University of Lapland. The project is funded by Business Finland under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and it will run till May 2022.

“The project is a continuation of our previous projects focusing on the sharing economy in tourism. While in our first project we looked into the current state of the sharing economy in tourism, our second research project concentrated on peer-to-peer accommodation ”, says Principal Investigator, Dr. Maria Hakkarainen.

During the first two projects, it became clear that regulations within the sharing economy are one of the most interesting areas. The role and the responsibilities of the platform organizations seem to be something that demands especially further investigation.

 “When we think of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in relation to the sharing economy, we assume that companies will perform better than what is required by the local legislation. “While in more traditional business it is easy to figure out where the law ends and where CSR begins, the boundaries between ethics and the law are still being defined in the sharing economy ”, Dr. José-Carlos García-Rosell explains.

Considering the public debate on the rapid growth of the sharing economy, the time is right for a project exploring responsibility in the tourism sharing economy. Other interesting topics addressed by the project are locality, value creation and social license to operate. “When we planned this project in close cooperation with different stakeholders new questions started to arise, e.g. what is the role of the locals in the tourism sharing economy? This question puts the local aspect on the spot light”, clears Maria. José-Carlos continues: “We will examine not only the consumers and suppliers of the sharing economy in tourism but also other stakeholders; what kind of value they bring and get from the exchange.”.

The project is not only limited to serve the academic objectives of our multidisciplinary research team consisting of four doctoral students and two senior researchers from social sciences, law, economics and management. Rather, the project will also support knowledge creation and dissemination that will benefit multiple stakeholders such as public and private organizations, authorities, associations, scholars and anyone else  interested in developing more responsible practices in the sharing economy.

The methodological approach of the project is action research: “Involving project participants as co-researchers in defining research goals, data collection and analysis fits perfectly to our project. We see action research as a research strategy relying on multiple sources of data and methods of fieldwork. In that way, our project fulfills as well the needs of our doctoral candidates as the organizations involved in the project”, says Maria. José-Carlos  continues: “Action research fits well to this phenomenon – since the sharing economy and CSR are dynamic in nature, we don’t just study and try to understand it, but we also aim to trigger change toward more responsible sharing economy practices. Our aim is not just to observe the participants, the stakeholders, but to try to find solutions with them”.

Maria and José-Carlos have both used action research before and this has brought them together in first place: “We realized the interface between management and tourism research discussions when using action research in our dissertations. This led to co-operation in various projects over the last years. As my interest has been in the tourism sharing economy and José-Carlos’s focus on CSR , now we had the change to combine these two fields within this action research project – for us, this is the most natural form of research collaboration”, says Maria.

Thank you, Maria and José-Carlos! In the coming weeks there will be blog posts e.g. of the definitions of the concepts used in the project and the first feelings in the project as a Junior Researcher.

Kati Rahikainen

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