The International Co-operative Alliance and Platform Co-ops
This paper aims to locate platform coops within the co-operative sector and the wider digital economy, and explore how the International Co-operative Alliance can define and support the development of the model.
As technology shapes and reshapes how people interact, it shapes and reshapes economic activity, including how people work and trade. In line with this, there is a growing trend of work that is funnelled through digital platforms owned by just a few large corporations. These platforms offer flexibility and independence, but they can also be viewed as exploitative – extracting the value of the connections made by the 99% for the 1% of outside investors.
The network effects of scale in a digital economy has led to the dominance of these Big Tech companies, which in turn has made it harder for people to envisage an alternative future to the current model. However, alternative futures do exist and for now, it is the co-operative alternative in the form of platform co-ops in particular that is attracting interest.
After considering different ways of characterising platform co-ops, a working definition of a platform co-op is proposed in this paper of “an enterprise that operates primarily through digital platforms for interaction or the exchange of goods and/or services of value and is structured in line with the Statement of Co-operative Identity of the International Co-operative Alliance.”