In 2015 Neal Gorenflo argued for “platform cooperativism” as an answer to “deathstar” platforms such as Uber or Airbnb. The idea is to use the same technology, but implement a mutually beneficial, cooperative business model. I.e., put real sharing into the “sharing economy”.
Cat Johnson writes this week to mention “11 Platform Cooperatives Creating a Real Sharing Economy”. She has sampled form dozens “platform cooperatives are making their presence known on a global scale.”
- Fairmondo (vs. Ebay)
- Stocksy (stock photos)
- Backfeed (blockchain based platform for creating coops
- Juno (vs. Uber et al.)
- Union Taxi (vs. Uber et al.)
- VTC Cab (vs Uber et al.)
- Modo (vs ZipCar)
- Timefounder (time bank?)
- Enspiral (free apps for decision making and budgeting)
- Tapazz (vs ZipCar)
- Peerby (share stuff)
I’m not sure why Johnson selected this list out of many other possibilities. Her list is heavy with transport (5 of the 11), and 2 of the 11 are infrastructure. The other 4 are classic “sharing economy” peer-to-peer services. She includes ‘Backfeed‘, which I’m going to return to in detail in later posts.
Clearly, Uber is a juicy target for commercial and non-commercial competitors. It is big, it is hated, and it’s “magic sauce” is not very darn magical. Realistically, anyone can replicate Uber’s technology and user experience. (Replicating the marketing and cultural penetration is another thing entirely.)
In my view, these coops are building alternative narratives on the same basic technology as Uber. I have already said that this is obviously the right idea.
Johnson points to the directory at “Internet of Ownership”, which has over 80 platforms or resources.
Based on this list, what is “platform coopertivism”?
Over half of the IOO directory are what I would call “infrastructure” or tools for building coops, “platforms” for co-ops, which is common at the early stage of a technology trend.
One interesting point is that, while there are some that use blockchain and cryptocurrency technology, there isn’t any specific technological driver other than the mobile internet. There seems to be more than one way to skin the “peer to peer” cat, and I strongly suspect that any technology that is “good enough” will work fine. The benefit and satisfaction of the coop platform comes from the community and the self-ownership, not from the specific technical implementation.
That said, what turns out to be “good enough” will depend on a lot of factors, including developments in the commercial world. Effective interoperation and integration with popular devices and environments will be critical. At this point, I don’t know what this means, except that you definitely have to support as many types of mobile devices as possible.
A second observation is that the scope and scale of the coops in this collection varies, though most seem to be focused on a single city or urban area. This makes sense for peer-to-peer sharing of physical stuff: how can you share stuff across large distance?
Other kinds of sharing, such as travel or crowd funding can go global fairly easily. This may or may not be desirable. There are good reasons why you might want to focus on peer-tp-peer funding within your local city, for example. Aside from civic concern, this would tie in and mesh with other local coops, e.g., for transport, food, cleaning. If I’m going to “outsource”, I’d like to outsource to my neighbors, no?
The bad news is that it takes time and work to replicate local successes elsewhere. The good news is that the technology and infrastructure is becoming really easy to find and use, so it is definitely feasible to boot up coops where ever you are.