Cooperative Platforms in a European Landscape: An Exploratory Study
In the past few years we have assisted to the rapid spread and growth of what is now commonly called the “sharing” or “collaborative economy”. These terms are usually used to refer to a broad and varied group of experiences that, in different ways and sectors, promote the use of digital platforms to connect distributed groups of people and enable them to exchange, share resources, or collaborate in different ways. New collaborative economy platforms are continuously being launched by companies, nonprofits, informal groups, or even public actors, and operate sometimes locally, sometimes at a national or even global scale. The underlying idea is that many existing resources are underutilised by their owners, and they could be better valorized if shared or exchanged with others who may be in need of them. This may be applied to material resources (a spare room in the apartment, or a car that is underutilised by its owner), as well as immaterial resources (time, specific knowledge, etc). The collaborative economy is usually based on digital platforms because these makes it easier, faster, and less expensive to share and exchange, but we are also assisting to the emergence of other forms of “sharing” and “collaboration”, which take for example place in physical spaces (co-working) or through different organizational forms.
The emergence of the collaborative economy comes with the spread and revitalization in the past years of powerful discourses about “collaboration”, “participation”, “sharing”, and so on, which are of course not new in human history, but are taking momentum also due to the economic crisis and the need of people to feel connected and access resources in convenient ways.