As the gig economy grows, more and more stories of worker exploitation are coming to the fore. And as reports of shady labor practices at Uber, Lyft, Taskrabbit, Postmates, and Amazon Mechanical Turk show, these issues run rampant across all sectors of the gig economy. In the home services industry, the platform Handy has made a name for itself, connecting people with pre-screened professional cleaners, fixers, and other professionals. Within three years of its founding, however, the company already faced lawsuits for allegedly underpaying workers and making them pay severe fees for minor transgressions.
Platform Cooperativism is defined as “concrete near-future alternative to the extractive sharing economy…rooted in democratic ownership”. Any “cooperatively-owned, democratically-governed business that uses a protocol, website or mobile app to facilitate the sale of goods and services” is a Platform cooperative.The coming (May 2018) “End of Life” of Storify, which I only discovered this morning, has a side that platform cooperative advocates may have overlooked so far.Storify may very well be/have been a digital platform cooperative.The same thing that will happen to Storify next May “can” (translation: “surely WILL, sooner or later”) happen to any platform cooperative. That is no news, of course. Cooperatives, projects, businesses, communities… they all END, at some point, like any other human endeavour.The point I want to highlight is that the average life expectancy of cooperatives, or projects in general, is shorter than that of human beings. Often much shorter.
NeighborSQUAD is creating a #platformcoop to enable the formation and governance of worker coops who are building Community Owned Networks.
NeighborSQUAD is researching how a Token Economy might help to jump start bringing in early adopters interested in forming Worker Owned Coops that would provide service and support for Community Owned Networks.
Diminishing UX/Network Effects: New Token-Based Incentivizes for Early AdoptersBefore blockchains and the digital scarcity of tokens, it was difficult to attract early users to a new network. But now, a company can “pay” early adopters in a native token and those early adopters will be incentivized to increase the value of their tokens. I personally love Fred Ehrsam’s description and visual for this:So how do you get people to join a brand new network? You give people partial ownership of the network. Just like equity in a startup, it is more valuable to join the network early because you get more ownership. Decentralized applications do this by paying their contributors in their token. And there is potential for that token (partial ownership of the network) to be worth more in the future. This is equivalent to being a miner in the early days of Bitcoin. …When the network is less populated and useful you now have a stronger incentive to join it.This system has been used by startups for years to attract employees to a young company, and now decentralized apps are using it to incentivize all potential users around the world to join the app early on.
Here at NeighborSQUAD we’re thinking a lot about how we can scale and have a decentralized open organization. One of the efforts we are following is “Colony.”
Open OrganizationsWe believe that the most successful organizations of the future will be open.Openness is not about open plan offices or ‘20% time’. It’s about how decisions get made, how labor is divided, and who controls the purse strings.In an open organization, you’re empowered to do the work you care about, not just what you’re told to do. Decisions are made openly and transparently. Influence is earned by consistently demonstrating just how damn good you are. It means everyone’s incentives are aligned, because ownership is open to all.And that means opportunity is open to all, and a new world of possibility opens up.Colony is infrastructure for the future of work: self-organizing companies that run via software, not paperwork.
NeighborSQUAD supports the movement towards worker owned cooperatives. We’re creating a Digital Commons to address training needs of Community Owned Networks.
In order to maintain good jobs and quality of life in rural Maine, business owner Vaughan Woodruff is guiding his solar installation company, Insource Renewables, toward employee ownership, with the help of Cooperative Development Institute.