A platform co-op is a digital platform — a website or mobile app that is designed to provide a service or sell a product — that is collectively owned and governed by the people who depend on and participate in it. That includes those who deliver the underlying service by contributing labor, time, skills, and/or assets.
Where corporate “sharing” platforms extract value and distribute it to shareholding owners who seek a return on their investment, platform co-ops distribute ownership and management of the enterprise to its participants — those working for the platform or those using the service.
Platform co-ops bring the longstanding tradition of cooperative enterprise to the online economy. The two key traits that these digital co-ops must realize are democratic control and collective ownership. Some advocates insist that in order to be counted as a platform co-op, an enterprise must uphold the International Co-operative Alliance’s cooperative principles.
Examples of Platform Cooperatives
Stocksy is a stock photo site where contributing photographers are also owners. A highly curated collection of royalty-free stock photos, the artist-owned cooperative is founded on the principles of equality, respect, and fair distribution of profits. Contributing artists receive 50% of a Standard License Purchase and 75% of an Extended License Purchase – and every single co-op member receives a share of the company.
Savvy Cooperative is a patient-owned co-op that connects people with opportunities to share their health experiences with companies, researchers, and innovators.
Fairbnb is a coalition effort that brings together groups from the regulated hotel and B&B industry with property owners, property renters, and other concerned citizens.
Data Commons Cooperative brings together organizations building the cooperative and solidarity economy. The organizations believe in sharing information such as membership lists, measurements, and opportunities with each other to give greater strength and resilience to all participating. The co-op, which started in 2012, now has over 30 member organizations. Their goal is to work together across co-ops to gather, share, maintain, display, and deploy data to serve their communities.
Internet of Ownership. The Internet of Ownership is a resource for the emerging online democratic economy. Its purpose is to advance platform cooperativism—a vision for online platforms that share democratic ownership and governance among the people who rely on them, especially those who contribute their labor and personal data.
Platform Cooperativism: Challenging the Corporate Sharing Economy. Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, 2016.