Can platform co-operatives lead innovation in the digital world?

05 Dec 2023

Inequality affects technology with a small group of owners in charge of artificial intelligence. Co-operatives can help to address this inequality, according to Trebor Scholz, associate professor for culture and media at The New School in New York City.

Mr Scholz coined the term “platform co-operative” as “co-ownership of platforms and data and democratic governance”. In February he was a keynote speaker at the Open:2017 Platform Co-operative Conference in London. Speaking at the event, he explained that platform co-ops are digital organisations owned and managed by an online membership community.

He believes co-operative models are part of the solution to addressing inequality in the digital world, along with peer-to-peer networking, new roles for unions and technologists and a commitment to commons open source.

Such a support network has already emerged in New York – the Platform Co-operativism Consortium. The body supports the co-operative platform economy through research, experimentation, education, advocacy, documentation and best practices, technical support, co-ordination of funding and events. Mr Scholz believes the key elements needed for platform co-ops to grow are competence, funding, research, incubators, policy, education and solidarity.

Photo: Trebor Scholz