OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Center (IDRC) and New York’s The New School's Platform Cooperativism Consortium (PCC) have received a Google.org grant of $1,000,000 for their joint project supporting platform co-ops.
The grant supports the economic development of cooperatives in the digital economy. It focuses specifically on creating a critical analysis of the digital economy and designing open source tools that will support platform co-ops working in sectors such as child care, elder care, home services, and recycling in the United States, Brazil, Australia, Germany, and India. Platform co-ops are web and app supported organizations that are owned and democratically governed by workers and/or users. The initiative is jointly led by PCC founder Trebor Scholz at The New School with Jutta Treviranus, who leads OCAD U’s IDRC.
The partnership is centered around developing the Platform Co-op Development Kit, a platform to help interested people start platform co-ops. The Kit will include a map of the ecosystem, a resource library about platform co-operativism, as well as tools that can ease the legal process for these startups, help democratic decision-making, and a customizable labor platform. By making these tools freely available and open source, The Platform Cooperative Consortium aims to lower the barriers to entry for co-ops.
“Platform co-ops offer a powerful way to counter economic exclusion and corrosive disparity — a global challenge the Inclusive Design Research Centre has been tackling for 25 years,” said Dr. Treviranus. “This inspired partnership between the Platform Cooperative Consortium at The New School and the IDRC at OCAD U will empower individuals and groups that are currently economically marginalized to co-design a more inclusively prosperous future.”
“This grant is a big win for the cooperative movement and for platform co-op pioneers all over the world," said Scholz. "This kit will make it easier to start and run platform co-ops. It will also provide an interactive map of the co-op ecosystem and essential community-edited resources.”
“Google.org has provided funding to develop the kit, which will combine the research of the PCC and the practical knowledge of the thriving platform co-op community with the inclusive design and development strengths of the IDRC,” explained Scholz. “But to build out this critically important and timely project into further territories and sectors, additional funding will be needed.”
The grant will also allow the PCC to engage other leading organizations committed to creating jobs with fair pay and good working conditions for diverse populations working in the digital economy. By applying the cooperative model to digital labor, the Platform Co-op Development Kit offers a compelling alternative to the otherwise extractive and on-demand digital economy.