Uber without Uber: Platform cooperativism as the new sharing economy


Think that cooperatives are a thing of the past? Think again. The concept of the cooperative is getting a new lease of life thanks to taxi drivers’ criticisms of Uber and the new organising possibilities presented by blockchain technology – and, under the title of ‘platform cooperativism’, it’s bringing a new economic order with it.

Uber, Ebay and Airbnb represent the friendly face of the sharing economy: everyone is hard at work swapping, renting and haggling; everyone can participate and everyone gains from it. But taxi drivers, vendors and landlords aren't seeing much benefit – no representation, no say in the conditions and dubious terms of engagement.

So-called platform cooperativism’s current projects offer an alternative: self-help, self-management and self-responsibility through cooperative production, sales and purchasing in a digital world.

At first glance, it seems like an idealistic utopia – and it would be if not for blockchain technology (the same system bitcoin is built on). Put simply, the blockchain enables users to cut out middlemen like Uber and engage directly in secure, decentralised trade for the first time. The exchange information is stored on all servers, meaning that each participant can access and store all relevant information at all times. For a more in-depth explanation, see the latest "GDI Impuls" issue on the blockchain.

In the meantime, we’re beginning to see the potential of this new technology. More and more online marketplaces like Amazon, music streaming services like Spotify, taxi services like Uber and social network apps like Facebook also exist as online cooperatives or blockchain platforms. We’ve assembled an exclusive selection of these projects and organisations on our infographic.

It’s difficult to say at the moment how an economy without middlemen might develop – or if it would function at all. But it’s certain that, in combination with the old idea of the cooperative, this new technology is going to change a lot – perhaps even as much as the internet did at the beginning of the 90s.

Download: Infographic Platform Cooperatives

See the large version of the infographic on Platform Cooperatives