Wales Co-operative Centre has updated members on a session it hosted at the Welsh Assembly on the potential of platform co-ops to democratise the digital economy.
The Centre hosted the Senedd’s Cross Party Group for Co-operatives and Mutuals for a session in March, featuring experts and practitioners from the sector – whose model sees digital business platforms owned by their workers or users rather than by big tech firms, in order to improve working conditions and drive social value.
Guests included Ludovica Rodgers from Co-operatives UK, who discussed its UnFound business development programme, Duncan McCann from the New Economics Foundation thinktank, Lynne Davies from Open Food network and Emma Black from Equal Care Co-op.
Daniel Roberts, policy and research officer for Wales Co-operative Centre, said in a post on the Centre’s website: “It is clear that this sector has a lot of potential. We need the co-operative movement as a whole to promote and support the concept and the organisations that have already started – we know the economic and influencing power of digital platforms, but platform co-operatives need to rival that with solidarity and partnership.
“The public sector can play a part by providing specialist support for these businesses and nurturing the community, and acting as anchor institutions. We must create the conditions for under-represented groups in tech to start these platforms; they often come from a place of need, from those who are often already struggling as a result low wages and precarious work.”
Specialist support is vital if start-ups are to overcome the barriers of access to capital and development of skills, he added. But discussion with members of the Senedd group took a look at how to take the next steps for the sector, “with topics ranging from intergenerational housing co-ops to community land management”.
Mr Roberts added: “It is clear this this model has significant potential, and we stand ready to support the sector to develop in Wales. Through our experience and specialist knowledge, we can support those wanting to shift power to workers and communities.”