How the concert economy cooperative ventures succeeded in thriving during the p

In the Italian city of Bologna, bicycle couriers deliver freshly baked bread from local bakeries to nearby businesses every morning. The same courier network delivers books from city libraries and food from grocery stores to residents’ homes. Unlike other delivery platforms, companies do not pay a commission to be part of the delivery service, and passengers earn around 9 euros ($ 10.19) an hour after tax compared to hourly wages. traditional gross of 5.5 euros ($ 6.23) that workers of other apps like Deliveroo or UberEats do; they also have accident and sickness insurance.

This service has not always existed; it was a direct response to the tests of Covid-19. An economic development arm of the city brought people together – traders, students, town planners, a union of food delivery couriers, the local library system – and asked them what they needed during the pandemic, and how a business could adapt to their needs. From their responses, the city helped create a cooperative platform – a version of a cooperative, where workers are also co-owners of a business, which uses a website, app, or other type of platform. – online form to sell its services.

Called Consegne Etiche (“Ethical deliveries”), the messaging platform is not just a delivery service. It is a way of deepening the “social fabric” of the community; couriers have even been talked about spending time with elderly people who felt lonely during the pandemic, says Trebor Scholz, founding director of the Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy at The New School and co-author of a recent white paper on Co-operative Ownership Policies published by the Berggruen Institute.

Consegne Etiche is just one of many platform cooperatives that have formed in recent years, but “it’s a really interesting example,” says Scholz, “because you see what a city can do”. By bringing all these people together, the city has helped create “synergistic solutions” for the benefit of businesses and residents.

The promise of the odd-job economy was that workers could be free from work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., setting their own schedules and making money by pursuing their passions. Reality looked different; these apps quickly became full-time jobs for concert workers, but as contractors and not as employees they were denied benefits; concert companies lobbied to erode workers’ protections, such as the right to organize; and rather than “share” in the success of these new ventures, workers got only a small slice of the pie.

Platform cooperatives, says Scholz – and local policy makers – can help foster their creation. “What is the hope of the underpaid and exploited workers? Said Scholz. “The cities, in a way. Cities can be empowered to step in and get things done, and [create] policies that can be felt in people’s lives.

Scholz first introduced the concept of “platform cooperativism” in a 2014 article in which he suggested integrating cooperative principles into the digital economy. “Worker-owned co-ops could design their own application-based platforms, fostering truly peer-to-peer ways of delivering services and things,” he wrote. In a cooperative, the workers or members also own the business, and the business is democratically controlled by all of those member-owners, rather than one person at the top. Platform co-ops are worker-owned co-ops that use a website, app, or other type of online platform to sell their goods or services. Scholz now heads the Platform Cooperative Consortium, an alliance of universities and cooperative organizations. As the idea of ​​platform co-ops spread, the group was approached by city councils around the world asking them what they could do. This most recent white paper sets out ways in which governments, from municipalities to nationals, can empower platform co-ops through policy.

Cities, in particular, are in a unique position to help. They can summon people to learn how a platform co-op can help residents. They can offer solidarity loan programs to finance early co-ops, create co-op incubators, offer tax benefits, and expand legislation to better support co-ops versus private businesses. Some places are already doing variations of this work: the city of Barcelona funds incubators that help platform cooperatives. The UK has a “Co-operative Party” in its government (the only country to do so) with 26 Members of Parliament, which works to promote democratic ownership of services and public services. Current legislation proposed by the state in California, called the California Cooperative Economy Act, would allow workers to band together in a cooperative that “then provides staffing services to concert companies”; these workers would be W-2 employees of the cooperative.

Co-operatives are not new; they have a history of almost 200 years. There is debate on which one was first; one report indicates that it was a fire insurance mutual founded in 1752 by Benjamin Franklin. They are also commonplace; co-ops own and operate 42% of America’s power lines, the first of which was organized in 1937. “With the opportunities of the internet, you can really scale these principles that can really help people and diversify the economy Scholz says — especially the digital economy, which “really needs more diversity, not just this one model that dominates everything”. And platform cooperatives can be part of so many industries. In New York City, Co-op Ride is a worker-owned ridesharing company, where drivers also own a share of the business. In California, NursesCan is a cooperative of registered professional nurses providing care on demand. Based in Belgium but in nine European countries, Smart.coop transforms any independent entrepreneur – artists, dancers, musicians – into employees who benefit from social benefits and pension funds (members must buy at least one share to join; the cooperative also takes a small percentage of customer payments as a fee).

The pandemic, in part, may have increased the popularity of co-ops, motivating people to start building this economy just as it spurred increased union support and greater participation in self-help. And to extend it even further, policy makers should intervene. “This is an international movement,” says Scholz. Some are still small; others have become quite large (Smart Cooperative earns $ 200 million per year). Yet, he said, “Without political support, this cannot be a winning solution. And I think it’s a great opportunity for cities to show their values ​​and how they support communities in this difficult time. “


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