This report surveys recent literature on co-operative approaches to improving work and livelihoods in the digital economy, specifically in the gig economy, the tech sector, and digital creative industries. It introduces concepts that update co-operative theory and practice for the digital age, including platform cooperativism, open cooperativism, distributed co-operative organizations, and Exit to Community. It outlines how the co-operative model has been adopted by and for self-employed workers, platform workers, technologists and communication professionals, and data subjects. While the report presents evidence of co-ops’ potential to improve working conditions and mitigate power asymmetries in the digital economy, it also addresses challenges co-ops face. It explores perspectives on the infrastructure necessary to overcome these challenges and expand worker co-ops’ presence in the digital economy, including the formation of co-operative federations for sharing technology across co-ops. Despite the promise of co-ops in the digital economy, the literature cautions against viewing them as a panacea. Stressing that individual co-ops are not, on their own, a sufficient response to problems of work and inequality, several authors position co-ops as one among a diversity of worker-centered organizations and strategies necessary to improve work and livelihoods in the digital economy. The report concludes with suggestions for future research and policy recommendations.
de Peuter, G., G. de Verteuil, and S. Machaka (2022). Co-operatives, Work, and the Digital Economy: A Knowledge Synthesis Report. Submitted to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Knowledge Synthesis program, Skills and Work in the Digital Economy.