Worker-Owned Apps Are Redefining the Sharing Economy

As Uber and its ilk face high prices, increased regulation, and labor shortages, a new cooperative model is thriving.

“Platform co-ops offer a more democratic and equitable alternative to traditional companies, and they have the potential to create good jobs, boost local economies, and increase resilience in the face of future shocks,” says Trebor Scholz, founding director of the Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy. “In a post-pandemic world, platform cooperatives could help to build a fairer, more sustainable economy that works for everyone.”

Schulz estimates that there are around 550 projects in 43 countries, spanning industries like short-term rental, transportation, domestic work, care, and energy, but the real figure could be much higher. There’s cleaning business Up & Go in New York City, ethical home-sharing alternative Fairbnb, which operates in more than 20 European cities, and Cataki, a Tinder for informal waste collectors in Brazil—known as catadores—to connect with residents who want to recycle their trash.

“Much has been made of Glovo, Deliveroo, UberEats, and other supposedly innovative gig economy delivery platforms, but this focus on technological development distracts from the fact that working conditions in the delivery sector have been going from bad to worse in most countries for decades,” says Paul Iano, cofounder of Eraman Repartos Koop, a cooperative bicycle delivery service that began operating in Vitoria Gasteiz, the capital of Spain’s Basque region, in March 2020.

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