Worker co-ops featured in European report on new tech and digitisation

The social economy can play a key role in driving digitisation, argues the report

A recent European Commission report on new technologies and digitisation includes four worker co-op case studies.

The report offers an in-depth analysis of the opportunities and challenges digital technologies provide for the social economy. It looks at 26 social economy organisations from Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK that are using innovative digital technologies effectively.

They include Outlandish, a digital worker co-operative from the UK, Mensakas SCCL, a food delivery worker co-op from Spain, Fairbnb, a vacation rental platform from Italy, and Mobility Factory SCE, a car sharing platform co-op from Belgium.

The report pays particular attention to technology co-ops and platform co-ops. It notes that platform co-ops that operate in utilities, energy, finance or transport are disrupting markets by providing “interesting social and economic value propositions to users”. Platform co-ops that are owned, governed and controlled by workers also play a key role in empowering vulnerable people undertaking routine occupations, adds the report.

Taking into account the role the social economy plays, the report argues that “there is a great need to rethink the roles and contributions of the social economy within national and European contexts”.

To support the social economy in taking full advantage of the benefits of digitisation the report suggests a series of recommendations, including unlocking resources for the social economy; building up the skills of the digital social economy through education and training; fostering a collaborative digital social economy; and exploring new regulations may be conducive to digital social innovation;

The European Confederation of co-operatives in the industry and services (Cecop) welcomed the report’s findings.

“Cecop agrees with these fields of interventions and invites European, national and local policy makers to engage with the worker co-operative movement to develop suitable and well adapted frameworks to support the digital transition of the social economy,” it said. “The Industrial and SME strategies needs to provide resources for co-operatives for the digital transition to allow for strategic investment in digital technologies. 

Public procurement directives need to allow for support of the social economy by including and promoting social indicators in public tenders. The new European Skills Agenda needs support co-operatives in training their members and bring co-operatives business models into management curricula. Lastly, the EU and its Member States need to develop favourable national legislation to develop new co-operatives and that allows to implement a democratically controlled and locally rooted digital transition.”