Do you want to start up a "platform cooperative"? Here's some help
We have long been interested in the idea that the "platforms" which dominate our digital lives - you know the names - could be differently structured. Less about shareholder return and secret data exploitation of users, more about cooperative benefit and an open data relationship with users.
Well, Cooperatives UK wants to help those who have ambitions in this area - and who may need expert guidance to help them explore these possibilities. What they've devised is an "accelerator programme" called Unfound.
Firstly, their working definition of a "platform coop" is:
A co-owned, democratically-governed business that uses an online platform or mobile app to enable people to meet their needs - or to solve a problem by networking people and assets (more here).
And what Unfound offers to do is to "support early stage platform co-ops with their business development, user acquisition, and funding strategies...It will feature six masterclasses, a team of mentors, peer-to-peer support, pitch training, and a live crowdfunding event.". Why are they offering this? The answers are that:-
- Digital companies are monopolising key economic sectors
- Labour platforms are encouraging precarious employment practices
- Co-operatives can expand their presence in the digital economy
- There is a demand for user and worker-owned digital platforms
- Co-operative models can be more competitive than investor-owned models
- Crowdfunding can challenge investor capital