Boundary Work in Sharing Practices of Informal Care

Conference: Reshaping Work in the Platform Economy (Amsterdam, 19 & 20 October, 2017)

Topic: The changing nature/experience of work in the platform economy


Drs. M.J. (Marianne) Dagevos MA

PhD candidate University of Tilburg




Boundary work in sharing practices of informal care


In a capitalist or post-capitalist society (Mason, 2015) such as the Netherlands, citizens have different options to make a living. Besides traditional fixed jobs, many people are self-employed ( in the Netherlands more than 1 million), engaged in gigs or in combinations of paid and unpaid labour. Moreover, in addition to the waged labour market the Netherlands has a long tradition of doing voluntary work ( ). 

With the rise of the platform economy, innovative and hybrid combinations emerge of paid and unpaid labour in an entrepreneurial context. Practitioners in the platform economy also explore the boundaries between the domestic sphere and the public sphere and between market and non-market transactions. 


In order to understand the boundary work of practitioners on sharing platforms, the diverse economies research program (Gibson-Graham 1996, 2006, 2008, 2013, 2014) offers a useful theoretical framework. In this approach, mainstream economic categories such as enterprise, labour, property, transactions and finance are rethought and reframed, questioning the dualisms and dominance relations. Moreover, diverse economic activities which tend to be hidden or marginalized in mainstream economic studies are highlighted, ‘making them more real and more credible as objects of policy and activism’ (Gibson-Graham, 2008: 618). 


In this paper the diverse economies framework is used to analyse the boundary work done by sharing practitioners with a specific focus on the categories labour, enterprise and transactions. 

The research focuses on three cases of sharing platforms enabling informal care and wellbeing, in particular on the suppliers of informal care who deal most with the indicated boundaries. 

The cases are: sharing platform WeHelpen, where the suppliers are volunteers; platform for sharing meals Thuisafgehaald, where the suppliers are home cooks; and platform for informal care SaaraanHuis, where the suppliers are professionals.



A qualitative method is applied conducting semi structured interviews with the suppliers and analysing these with the diverse economies theoretical framework. Additional interviews were conducted with social entrepreneurs and community managers of the different platforms.


Next, the practices of the suppliers are compared focussing on boundary work. When labour is concerned the focus is on the public-private divide and the dualism between domestic activities and professional work. 

When enterprise is concerned the focus is on the entrepreneurial aspects of labour and the added value of the platform management. 

When transactions are concerned the focus is on the boundaries between market transactions or commodities and non-market transactions based on trust and reciprocity. 


Finally, we argue that sharing practices do lead to an exploration of the in-between spaces transcendingdualisms such as capitalist vs. non-capitalist enterprise; market vs. non-market transactions and paid vs. unpaid labour. These in-between spaces are hybrids and show different dynamics. The dynamics are still vulnerable but also hold certain potential. Above all, in the sharing practices the non-material rewards of labour such as autonomy, satisfaction, commitment and joy are re-invented (cf. Fitzmaurice, et al., 2016). 



* Fitzmaurice, C., Ladegaard, I., Attwood-Charles, W., Cansoy, M., Carfagna, L., Schor, J.B. & Wengronowitz, R. (2016). “Domesticating the market: moral exchange and the sharing economy”. Unpublished paper.

* Gibson-Graham, J.K. (1996). The End of Capitalism (as we knew it). A Feminist Critique of Political

Economy. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Oxford: Blackwell. 

* Gibson-Graham, J.K. (2006). A Postcapitalist politics. Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press.

* Gibson-Graham, J.K. (2008). “Diverse economies: performative practices for ‘other worlds” Progress in Human Geography 32 (5) 613-632.

* Gibson-Graham, J.K, Cameron, J. & Healy S. (2013). Take back the Economy. An Ethical Guide for

Transforming Our Communities. Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press.

 * Gibson-Graham, J.K. (2014). “Rethinking the Economy with Thick Description and Weak Theory” 

Current Antropology 55 (9) 147-153.

 * Mason, P. (2015).  PostCapitalism. A Guide to Our Future. UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia, India, New Zealand, South-Africa: Allen Lane.

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