Dear IBP students
There appears to be some confusion for some students regarding different parts of the essay question.
Within the urban space there has been a large growth of share economy businesses like Uber and Go Get. This has led to new opportunities for a range of stakeholders (developers, residents, customers etc.) and also new challenges for regulatory authorities (councils, environment planners and state government). In an urban environment, this new share economy presents new challenges and complexities. Identify the relevant stakeholders associated with share economy businesses operating in urban areas. Discuss how sustainable development in urban areas presents a wicked problem for share economy businesses.
As opposed to answering a number of individual emails from students I thought it best to provide the following generic advice. Please note that this advice does not negate the importance of attending Adam’s writing workshops this week where you will have the opportunity to talk about individual approaches to the question and any specific challenges you might be having. Marking criteria has been posted on UTS Online. This document will give you more of an idea of the weighting we are applying to different topics, both thematic (i.e. different parts of the question) and technical (critical writing, referencing etc.).
- Firstly, I can confirm that if you are finding this essay topic hard then you are not alone. The purpose of this first essay is to push you to engage with literature from a wide variety of areas and to develop a cogent argument. Unlike many essays you would have done in high school there is more than one possible answer to the question we are interested to see well founded arguments backed up by evidence from the literature.
- An issue for some of you that has flown from this first point is that some people have told me that they are finding it difficult to literature relating to the sustainable development of share economy businesses. If this is the case with you I can confirm that there is a reason for this. This is because when you are researching at the university level there will usually not be books, journal articles etc. that relate specifically to the question you are interested in. If such literature existed there would be no point academics repeating this work. From a student’s perspective we could just direct you all to one or two readings which you would summarise and we’d have 1800 answers that were all the same. Academic research is often a bit like a treasure hunt. There are numerous articles dealing with urban sustainability and wicked problems, as well as a large number of works from reputable sources such as the Economist and industry based publications dealing with the share economy. To write at university requires that you look at this material with a critical eye and draw links. I’ll say more about this in a moment.
- Some of you have asked if we need to engage with literature on all the different terms in the question i.e. urban sustainability, share economy etc. This is certainly correct, when you begin to write an essay at uni the first thing you do is identify your key terms as this provides the coverage for your essay. At the same time though we don’t want 1000 words of vague ideas about these issues. We want you to identify aspects of urban sustainability (i.e. your wicked problem space) and link this to specific share economy businesses. The use of industry cases is specified in the marking criteria and will also allow you to focus your discussion in on share economy business types that interest you and that you may wish to revisit for your business model canvas essay later in the semester and for your final group assignment.
- How might you draw the different terms in the question together. Firstly, you can see that the opening part of the question asks you to identify the relevant stakeholders associated with share economy businesses in urban areas. This part of the question is there because we have been telling you in lectures that a wicked problem based dynamic business environment is defined by people. Think back to all the wicked problems I talked about in weeks 1 and 2. While often there is alleged to be a scientific basis to perspectives on wicked problems, they are wicked because different people see them differently. They often can’t agree that there is an issue at all, and if they agree that an issue exists then they can’t agree on a solution. For this reason we want you to start by figuring out what the stakeholder mix is (both market and non-market). It is often when you begin to see the breadth of people that are involved in an industry (academics have a whole body of scholarship related to stakeholder theory for discuss it) that you start to identify where people may disagree about the future direction of an industry. Understanding the breadth of the stakeholder mix will also be important for later essays and your business development in your groups.
- Once you know who the stakeholders are in a share economy business you can begin to look at the urban sustainability literature. There are so many books and articles in the library on this. We are focussing on urban areas for two reasons in this course; 1) urban areas are where most share economy businesses tend to develop and 2) because urban sustainability is a wicked problem. In the first few weeks of lectures I’ve been talking to you about the issue of human needs. Human needs are fundamental to sustainability because they involve business trading off the pros and cons of their development for different people taking into account notions of inter-generational and intra generational equity. We spent time talking about this in relation to the morals of your actions as ethical business leaders. You might remember that I asked you numerous times; whose needs matter?
- All of you live in urban environments and I’m sure you can all think of instances where businesses of various types have made decisions that have either positively or negatively influenced people. This has occurred because businesses have undertaken to trade off different stakeholder’s needs against each other. The key point from the urban sustainability literature is that sustainability is (I would argue) a values driven idea. You need to consider what the notion of business sustainability means to you. This is a question that will have an impact on you far beyond the end of this subject and course. It will influence your actions throughout your whole career.
- Once you have identified what sustainability of business means to you then need to engage with the second part of the question; “discuss how sustainable development in urban areas presents a wicked problem for share economy businesses”. As I have said above, urban sustainability is wicked specifically because there is not universal agreement on what it means. Take the issue of urban transport in the city of Sydney and the development cycle ways. As I said in the lecture, if you were to apply sustainability models such as the Circles of Sustainability model of James (2015) you would see that the cycle ways positively tick the boxes on a number of social and environmental indicators of sustainability. At the same time though, for other stakeholders it falls short of sustainability because it is a landuse that is for many people at odds with the economic sustainability of a working city. I’m not for a moment suggesting that cycle ways are necessarily a part of your argument in your essay. What I am saying though is that sustainability is always a trade-off between economic, social and environmental forces. Trade-offs typically are the source of stakeholder conflict and I would suggest that you identify problem spaces where trade-offs have occurred.
- These problem spaces will form the basis of the problem your team is trying to find solutions for in your group assignment. In this essay you are not focussed on solutions you are focussed simply on how the problem impacts on existing share economy businesses. To answer this part of the question I would suggest that you base your discussion around the interaction of stakeholders you have previously identified. For instance you might show how the regulatory stakeholders are in disagreement with the owners of the business, how the competitors are in conflict with the share economy model because of … etc.
Mode procedural advice:
- Try to include a mixture of academic and reputable industry based or government sources. Things like Wikipedia are not allowed obviously but given how quickly share economies are growing; academic material is often not the most up to date information available. Always look at literature with a critical eye and ask can it be trusted.
- How many case studies should I use? This is up to you, as is the way that you frame the connection between urban sustainability problem spaces and the share economy. You want to get a nice blend of acknowledging the bigger picture around the different topics, whilst at the same time providing detailed analysis of individual cases.
- Try not to include a shopping list of share economy stakeholders, aspects of wicked problems and industry examples. Be judicious in your selections and always be thinking about your particular areas of interest and your main argument. At the same time though …
- Top essays will recognise that individual business cases do not allow them to look at all the big picture issues. Acknowledging that the issues are bigger than what is in your essay, whilst at the same time giving your writing a focus is one of the hardest skills in academic writing.
I hope this advice helps. Please ensure that you attend writing workshops if required (go there with ideas and sections of your essay already written). While Adam is not there to write your essay for you, he can answer specific questions and you will get far more from the sessions if you go there with questions that have emerged from your own drafts that you want answered. Also can everyone please post questions to the discussion board in the assignments folder as opposed to sending personal emails? This will ensure that everyone gets the benefit of our replies.