Blog: All Sectors

Building a Fairer Digital Economy with Platform Co-ops

November 3, 2017

November 10-11, 2017, will be an exciting time at the Platform Cooperative Consortium at The New School in New York City. The Consortium is presenting the third annual #platformcoop event – The People’s Disruption: Platform Co-ops for Global Challenges – which will explore how transforming the digital economy into democratically owned and controlled platform cooperatives will create a fairer economy for all. The event will showcase new platform co-op projects, present research on the digital economy, and join together leaders from co-ops, industry, labor, and social movements – from Associated Press to Black Lives Matter – to raise awareness of how platform co-ops can answer some of the world’s most urgent challenges.


Wait up!  What is a platform co-op?

A platform co-op is a digital platform, designed to sell a good or service, that is owned and governed by the people who use the platform itself. As an alternative to corporate “sharing economy” platforms that extract value from freelancers and distribute it to outside investors, platform co-ops keep 100% of ownership, management, and profits with the people who work for the platform or use its services.

Why do platform co-ops matter?

1 in 3 Americans is a freelancer today. And by 2020, 40% of the workforce is expected to be freelancers. These workers are not protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act, leading to unpredictable paychecks and no employer-granted social benefits, insurance, or proper representation. Many freelancers are part of the much publicized “sharing economy” – platform based companies that offer goods and services, like Uber and Airbnb. These companies take commissions off the sales of their goods and services to satisfy outside investors while their freelance workers struggle to make a living. Platform co-ops move the ownership and governance of these platforms away from greedy outside investors and place it in the hands of the workers and users of the platform. Platform co-ops are the alternative to the extractive sharing economy. These co-ops can completely disrupt the trend of the extractive sharing economy and create a fairer future of work for people everywhere. The trend is already emerging.

What’s the opportunity?

Remember how 1 in 3 Americans is a freelancer today? 1 in 3 Americans is also a co-op member already. If we leverage the strength and collective voice of co-op members across the US as a force for good, together we can build a fairer digital economy for all. Imagine if all platforms upheld the 7 Cooperative Principles and distributed ownership and management fairly among users. The opportunity to return control of the Internet to us – everyday ordinary users – is incredible.

How do I learn more?

Trebor Scholz, Associate Professor of Culture and Media at The New School, introduced the idea of “platform cooperativism,” and it has gained momentum through #platformcoop annual events at The New School. This year’s event will feature inspiring conversations, connections, and planning to make platform cooperativism part of the new normal!

Howard Brodsky, Chairman of Cooperatives for a Better World and Co-CEO and Chairman of CCA Global Partners, will speak at the NYC event on how co-ops can reshape the future of ownership by connecting established co-ops to the rising platform co-op movement locally through Co-op Communities and nationally in a bold cooperation vision.

Keep your eyes out for Nathan Schneider, scholar in residence of media studies at the University of Colorado Boulder and co-organizer of the first #platformcoop conference in 2015. Schneider is inspiring the co-op movement to do what it does best – answer people’s needs in areas where conventional corporations dare not go. In this way, co-ops can realize futures that conventional companies can’t even imagine!

Christina Jennings is the Executive Director of Shared Capital Cooperative, a national CDFI loan fund that invests in cooperative businesses. Look forward to her describing how building a just, democratic economy can be achieved by us taking ownership of capital (instead of investors!) to support democratic ownership of platforms.

Don’t’ miss Marina Gorbis – Executive director to the Institute for the Future (IFTF), a Silicon Valley nonprofit research and consulting organization – who will speak about delivering social and economic equality through Universal Basic Assets.


The event will be live streamed! Tune in HERE November 10-11th to catch the weekend’s exciting happenings!

 

Learn more about the #platformcoop opportunity in this publication from the Platform Cooperative Consortium.

Check out www.platform.coop for more information and to REGISTER for the event!