Cities have for a long time been key actors in sustainable urban development, and in recent times, also for the sharing economy, as they provide a fertile breeding ground for various sharing initiatives. While some of these initiatives build on existing practices and infrastructures such as public libraries and repair workshops, others require the involvement of private companies, as in the case of car sharing. The sharing economy might therefore require a significant reinterpretation of the role of local governments, businesses and citizens, which in turn might imply a complex re-organisation of governing. This article will explore what potential roles cities might have in governing the sharing economy. Four Swedish cities serve as case studies for this purpose: Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Umeå. City data was collected primarily through qualitative means of investigation, including workshops, interviews and desk research. In Malmö, additional participatory observations were conducted on the testbed Sege Park. Results were analysed with a framework developed for understanding the various governing roles for cities in the sharing economy. Three dominant modes of governing were identified and discussed: governing by provision and authority; governing by partnership and enabling; and governing through volunteering. The four cities made use of all three governing modes, although with a primary focus on governing by authority and governing through partnership. When characterised by governing through volunteering, projects were always initiated by the city, but then run formally by an NGO. While all governing modes may have a role and a purpose in the sharing economy, it is still important that cities reflect upon what are their actual implications. Risks include a collaborative governing mode out-competing some businesses, for example, and a self-governing mode reducing the action space of the volunteer sector.
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