Cooperative Platforms in a European Landscape: An Exploratory Study, presented at the International Social Innovation Research Conference in Glasgow last month, is based on an online mapping study of 38 cases from 11 European countries and three initiatives outside the EU. Interviews were taken with representatives from national co-operative associations in nine EU countries.
The study found that the sharing economy – including collaboration and solidarity – can also be found within the vision and experience of co-ops, which can contribute by promoting models of community based on membership rather than usership.
The co-op model can also be used to support new initiatives to manage the commons, it argues, alleviating the problems associated with collaborative platforms, which have been blamed for precarious conditions for large numbers of on-demand workers, who are not formally recognised as employees and have no rights or say in the company they depend on.
Research by Trebor Scholz in 2014 found these platforms take no responsibility for the quality and safety of services provided by the freelance workers and puts forward the idea of platform co-operativism, where users control the platform by organising as a co-op.
The new paper also explores how existing co-ops could be transformed in the sharing economy, developing new collaborative models driven by their specific innovation needs.
The research revealed that in the UK, France, Belgium and Austria there is a “growing awareness of the potential of the collaborative economy for co-operative companies, and a desire of representative associations to see co-operatives take the lead of this emerging phenomenon”.
Commenting on the study, Agnès Mathis, director of Cooperatives Europe, said: “Co-operatives and collaborative economy have much in common, yet there is a substantial amount to learn from each other as shown by initiatives carried out by co-operatives in the field and by their national associations.
“The co-operative movement should apprehend the emerging collaborative economy as an opportunity to promote a vision of an economy based on mutualisation of resources and increased democratic participation.”