Worker-Owned Apps Are Redefining the Sharing Economy

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To compete with well-funded private platforms, the active intervention of government and municipalities is vital for platform cooperatives. This could be through procurement policies that give platform cooperatives preferential treatment over privately owned companies, investigating how laws should be adapted to changes in digital technology, and designating public spaces to use them as platform cooperative centers. Examples of this already exist: the Kerala government has pledged to help establish 4,000 platform cooperatives over the next five years, and in 2016, Barcelona City Council launched Decidim, a platform for open source that allows citizens to participate in democratic decisions, including the creation of a platform. cooperatives.

“The key is a combination of solid regulation at the municipal level, plus a gradual expansion of cooperatives,” Schor says. “One possibility is municipally owned cooperatives that are large enough to compete with private platforms; I’d like one or two cities to provide it.”

The city of Bologna, Italy, has been supporting cooperatives and workers ’rights for decades, and now its municipal institutions act as incubators and facilitators of ethical alternatives to the gig economy and its digital infrastructure. One of them is the food delivery cooperative Consegne Etiche (Ethical Deliveries), co-planned by urban designers, local shopkeepers, academics and union representatives of concert workers at the beginning of the Bologna Covid-19 blockade.

Consegne Etiche began with the delivery of antiviral masks to residents ’homes, and then expanded to other essential products for people who could not leave their homes. Runners always receive a flat rate of $ 9 per hour. He now also delivers books to people who cannot access the library, for whom he receives 15,000 euros (about $ 15,600) a year in European funding, and to those living in particularly economically and socially fragile areas of Bologna, for whom he receives another 15,000. euros each year.

But government-sponsored cooperatives are also emerging elsewhere. To help drivers cope with rising fuel prices, the mayor of the Brazilian city of Araraquara helped create the Coomappa cooperative, which worked with a traditional software company to build a transportation platform. Tariffs start at R $ 2.50 (about 50 cents) and pay drivers 95 per cent of revenue, i.e. they earn 40 per cent more than on other platforms. Without price increases and low cancellation rates, it is also popular with passengers.

Even with adequate funding, finding experienced team members to build cooperative models and develop digital tools is not easy. “Most people who learn to start businesses build them for their own wealth, not to drive social change and grow community wealth,” Forman says. The Drivers Cooperative is appealing to volunteers over the coming months, especially Big Tech employees who can give their time and knowledge to help them grow. He plans to launch a three-month fellowship in hopes of attracting highly skilled tech workers who are among very well-paid jobs. They would win a monthly scholarship to learn about the platform’s cooperation model in exchange for perfecting the application and imparting wisdom about the internal workings of a larger traditional technology company.

As these projects grow, it will not be possible to apply the same success metrics as a Silicon Valley startup. Instead of the number of downloads, the value of the round of funding or the benefits, the focus is on whether it achieves its social and environmental goals and serves its member-workers. “We don’t have the steady flow of travel like Uber or Lyft, but we’ve been testing hourly pay, and the next step will be benefits like paid free time,” Forman says. “Refinancing the driver’s vehicle purchases means that one of our members, who went from paying $ 1,500 to $ 500 a month and can finally take a vacation, while another got married, because he no longer works all the time “.

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