Platform Cooperatives: The Social and Solidarity Economy and the Future of Work
The sharing economy, defined as “the peer-to-peer-based activity of obtaining, giving, or sharing the access to goods and services, coordinated through community-based online services” (Hamari, Sjöklint, and Ukkonen 2015, 1) has increasingly infiltrated our lives under the form of mobile platforms like Uber, Airbnb, and eBay. Globally, it is predicted to grow from 14 billion USD to 335 billion USD by 2025 (Vaughan and Hawksworth 2014, 2). Yet, while there is a major demand for the convenience of these services, how often do we stop to think about the people behind these platforms?
In that context, the platform cooperative movement was born with a strong conviction to advocate for the common economic and social concerns of workers. Platform cooperatives offer the same services on technologically equivalent digital platforms compared to their capitalist counterparts, such as ride-sharing, online marketplace, or crowdsourcing, but the engagement of workers in these two business models are vastly different, due to their distinct goals and missions. Platform cooperatives are by definition “jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprises” (International Cooperative Alliance n.d.).
Expanding on this topic, this paper uses case studies of a capitalist platform (TaskRabbit) and a platform cooperative (Loconomics), both in the crowdsourcing industry, to examine how these models differ in engaging their workers in four different aspects: ownership of the enterprise, involvement in decision-making, profit distribution, and the facilitation of interpersonal relationships. This research applies Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory on workers’ attitude in an enterprise to discuss how the differences in worker engagement methods translate into different levels of workers’ satisfaction. The findings of this paper confirm that the democratic practices of platform cooperatives allow it to better satisfy workers’ needs compared to platform capitalist enterprises.