Community-Based Platforms

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Description

Community-Based Platforms

By Aurélien Acquier, Thibault Daudigeos, and Jonatan Pinkse:

"Community-based platforms – try to make the most of the promises of the platform economy without losing sight of the promises of the community-based economy. They harness the scaling power of platforms for the good of the community, either by using a governance mechanism that ensures redistribution to balance stakeholder interests or by orienting the purpose of the platform towards the community interest. The first case refers to what has recently been called ‘platform cooperativism’, a label referring to platforms that open their governance structures to a broader group of stakeholders than investors alone (Scholz, 2016a). Citiz, a French network of car sharing companies that share around 1000 cars in 80 different cities is a good example of such an alternative governance scheme. Consumers, employees, investors, public authorities, main contractors and suppliers are all partners in the cooperative and vote on the main decisions. The Platform Cooperativism Consortium (PCC) is made up of dozens of cooperative platforms such as Loomio or Peerby that follow similar governance principles. The second case refers to ‘mission-driven platforms’ whose main purpose is increasing a community's well-being. For example, the mission of the Austrian initiative Refugeeswork is improving refugees' access to the labour market and breaking down negative stereotypes of refugees. It connects potential workers and employers through digital platforms and prepares the applicants through dedicated training.

Notwithstanding their promise for coming up with alternative modes of organizing the sharing economy, community-based platforms suffer from intractable tensions between scalability and community interests. Platform cooperatives have to deal with the trade-off between attracting regular impact investors and adopting alternative redistribution schemes that may frighten off such investors. Such platforms therefore struggle with competition from pure market players that can more easily raise funds. Mission-driven platforms experience a tension between global reach and local audience. Their initial goal to serve community interests can get diluted in the expanding their activities and they struggle to find the right scope of action to avoid mission drift (Jones, 2007; Weisbrod, 2004). A case in point is the online platform, Etsy, that partly let go of its initial mission to stimulate local, home-made handicraft in order to scale up the organization as well as the handicraft suppliers of the platform (Tabuchi, 2015). Community-based platforms bring together a market logic of scaling to global markets and a non-market logic of contributing to the local community, which creates a paradoxical situation that might prove unstable over the long term when one logic prevails over the other." (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0040162517309101?platform=hootsuite)