Platform Cooperatives Explained

With Trebor Scholz of The New School, the IDRC produced the following graphics to help illustrate concepts:

The following is content extracted from the PNG graphic above

Platform Co-ops

We connect cooperatives with the digital economy

We need alternative economic models because the economy powering the Internet is not working


In 2015, the 62 richest people in the world controlled $1.76 trillion: the cumulative worth of 3.5 billion people.Women and people of color are disproportionally affected by this trend.


Network effects lead to top-down control of platforms, weakening competition and the potential for consumer alternatives.

Workplace Democracy

While political democracy has spread in many countries, workplace democracy has not.

Invasion of Privacy

In the EU alone, the market for personal data will reach $1 trillion by 2020, encouraging commercial surveillance and privacy breaches.

The Smokescreen of Counterculture

Terms like “sharing” and “community” are used to sell commercial services and lend out assets. Labor companies pass themselves off as tech companies.

Stalled Worker Rights

Independent contractors lose rights guaranteed under the Fair Labor Standards Act. They are not covered by unemployment insurance.

Shift Away from Direct Employment

1 in 3 Americans is a freelancer. 40% of the US workforce is expected to be freelancers by 2020.

Stagnating Wages

Over the past 40 years, wages for most American workers have not risen, when adjusted for inflation.

Crowd Fleecing

Online labor brokerages enable wage theft, discrimination, and exploitation.

We can build on a powerful business model that works—it’s hidden around us in plain sight

• 1 in 3 Americans is a co-op member.

• In the U.S., co-ops created close to 1 million jobs with $25 billion in wages and benefits.

• The total co-op revenue in the U.S. is $500 billion.

• Cooperative enterprises worldwide employ 250 million people and generate $2.2 trillion in revenue.

Imagine a digital economy that would follow the 7 co-operative principles

1. Voluntary and Open Membership

2. Democratic Member Control

3. Member Economic Participation

4. Autonomy and Independence

5. Education, Training, and Information

6. Cooperation among Cooperatives

7. Concern for Community

Platform co-ops respond to the market failures of the online economy

benefits of the platform co-op model:

Lower transaction and retention costs

Surplus revenues of co-ops are transferred to the members

80% of co-ops survive their first five years compared with 41% of other business ownership models

Money flows within local communities

Protection from exploitation through ownership, transparency, control

Higher commitment of users disincentivizes short-termism

Prospect of data democracy

4 examples of platform co-ops


WHO: Stocksy United

WHERE: Victoria, BC, Canada WHEN: launched 2013 

WHAT: high-quality, curated stock photography and video footage, raising the bar—and the industry’s expectations—of stock photography and cinematography, 960 photographers in 63 countries 

2015: $7.9m in sales, $200,000 in dividends to workers; Skills training for photographers to increase value of product; Uses 5% of revenue to operate the platform; Have serviced 124 of Fortune 500 companies 

2016: $10.7m in sales, $300,000 in dividends


WHO: Green Taxi Co-op

WHERE: Denver, Colorado Metro Area

WHEN: launched in 2015

WHAT: Mobile app ride-hailing 800 members, immigrants from 37 countries; $2,000 from each driver for startup costs; Communication Workers of America Local 7777 helped clear regulatory hurdles (and leased a basement office to Green Taxi Cooperative); Captured over ⅓ of the Denver market


WHO: Resonate

WHAT: Stream-to-own model driven by blockchain technology; Multistakeholder cooperative giving stakeholders democratic control: Artists (45%), Listeners (35%), Employees (20%); Pays up to 2.5 times more than other streaming services



WHERE: Zurich, Switzerland

WHAT: Health data cooperative; Members upload their medical records, mobile-health data, and personal genome and can then decide to securely share with: physicians, family, researchers; Apps-economy allows patientsto make use of their data; Profits are generated from voluntary sale of data to researchers; Aims for an international federation of cooperatives with the goal of creating a cooperative data commons

... and there is so much more in the platform co-op ecosystem


Banyan Project

Newscoop Sourcefabric

The People's Daily Morning Star


Quotidiano Comunista Il Manifesto

WOZ Die Wochenzeitung

Positive News

La Jornada en linea


Green Taxi Cooperative




Cotabo Il Primo Taxi di Bologna

Co-op Cycle

Co-op Taxi Line



Short Term Rental


Fair BnB

Incubators and Supporting Institutions



Cooperative Networks

Fair Coop

Freedom Coop

Seed dot coop

Data Co-ops

Dark Peak


Data Commons Cooperative


Our Data Coop





Join Us 2 Eat

Open Food network

High Plains Food Coop


Fair Shares

Any Share

Economic Space Agency

Home Services


Up & Go



Divvy DAO


France Barter

Fair Market


Origin Club

Web Services

Digi Coop




Web Hosting dot coop



4 ways to start a platform co-op (PC)

• CO-OPs launch PCs

• FAILING STARTUPS convert into PCs

• PCs can be created as a result of ANTI-TRUST REGULATIONS

• Co-ops can launch PCs with the help of UNION

In order to build a fairer digital economy, we are working to overcome a series of challenges

• Financing

• Value Proposition

• Network Effects

• Regulation

• Education

• Leadership

• Member Involvement

Making good

Platform cooperativism is a growing international movement that builds a fairer future of work. Rooted in democratic ownership, co-op members, freelancers, technologists, and unionists create a concrete near-future alternative to the extractive sharing economy.

Building on the early promise of the Web to decentralize the power of apps, protocols, and websites, platform co-ops allow modest-income households to benefit from the shift of labor markets to the Internet. Steering clear of the belief in one-click fixes of social problems, the model is poised to vitalize people-centered innovation by joining the rich heritage and values of co-ops with emerging Internet technologies.


Request information:

SOURCES:  “Missing Markets and the Cooperative Firm” by Brent Hueth (2014)

“Cooperative Identity, Values & Principles” by the International Co-operative Alliance

“Facts and Figures” by the International Co-operative Alliance

“Annual Report” by The National Cooperative Business Association (2014)

“An Economy for the 1%” by Oxfam (2016)

“What Do We Really Know About Worker Cooperatives?” by Virginie Pérotin (2016)

Ours to Hack and to Own: The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, A New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider (2016)

“Research on the Economic Impact of Cooperatives” by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives (2009)

“Freelancing in America” by Upwork and the Freelancers Union (2016)

Thank you to the Internet of Ownership for their support and continued work in the platform co-op space.