Co-operatives, Work, and the Digital Economy: A Knowledge Synthesis Report
This report surveys literature on co-operative approaches to improving work in the digital economy. After discussing the cooperative model and its claimed ability to counter problems in digital capitalism, it discusses concepts which update co-operative theory and practice for the digital age, including platform cooperativism, open cooperativism, and distributed co-operative organizations. Next, it outlines how the co-operative form has been applied in the digital economy.
The report finds that cooperatives could improve working conditions and mitigate power asymmetries in the digital economy, but face challenges regarding access to money, public awareness, and business development support. Overcoming these challenges requires appropriate legislation, financing models, technical assistance for cooperative business development, cooperation, federations, and technology sharing among cooperatives, and increased awareness of the co-op model at strategic sites of learning and new business formation.
Examples of what democratic ownership and collective governance look like in practice in the digital economy display various features, such as members having a say in the design of technologies that shape their work. Yet they also fail to escape the very economic paradigms, systems of social exclusion, and cultures of work that they seek to transform. Thus, individual cooperatives must be part of a larger effort to improve work and promote equality in the digital economy. The report concludes with suggestions for future research and policy recommendations.