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Alternative platforms addressing sustainable and cooperative work organization in the digital era.

Alternative platforms addressing sustainable and cooperative work organization in the digital era

Laura Aufrère, PhD student , CEPN (UMR CNRS 7234) Université Paris 13 Sorbonne Paris Cité
Dr. Corinne Vercher-Chaptal, Professor, CEPN (UMR CNRS 7234) Université Paris 13 Sorbonne Paris Cité
Dr. Cynthia Srnec, Research Fellow, CEPN (UMR CNRS 7234) Université Paris 13 Sorbonne Paris Cité
Division: Business and economics


The sharing economy in the context of gig economy is transforming the production and distribution of good and services by inquiring the boundaries of production spaces, work processes and labor institutions. The main shift conducted in the socio-economic paradigm is the melting distinction – inherited from the industrial, employment-based modern era of the western economies – between private, public and community arenas of work and labor. In that context, the “sharing” refers to the social connections between users and workers as revealed, encouraged, strengthened and scaled-up by an intermediary platform. The “gig” on the other hand, underlines the uncertainty, the unstable, and the “marginal” dimension of the production: on the margins of the labor, consumption, and trade laws; on the margin of the full-time employment socio-reference; and on the margins social institution organizing collective protection for users and workers. Considering the initial distinction inside the sharing economy and the platforms architecture of Carballa-Smichowski and Coriat (2017) this paper will adopt a critical perspective of management and economic models.
On the one hand, large digital platform-companies organize amateur and professional labor around digital tools equipped to generate and capture, process and control a growing volume of data mainly for marketing production. As underlines in the ILO report on The architecture of digital labour platforms: Policy recommendations on platform design for worker well-being, the platforms are claiming to be tools empowering entrepreneurship by providing infrastructure and market access that enables workers to run their own businesses. “However, the primary business goal of labour platforms is the creation of an efficient or well-functioning market that can increase the platform’s market share – not the empowerment of workers as entrepreneurs.” (Choudary 2018). The purpose is to generate high profits, increasing profit margin by avoiding compliance with both the labor law and protection negotiated in concerned sectors, and the redistribution processes organized by core institutions of modern societies (Choudary, 2018).
On the other hand, we can identify sharing and alternative platforms that operates under the principles of solidarity, reciprocity and equality. Articulating professional and amateur activities, on-line and in-real life interactions, they perform as tools and facilities oriented towards the users’ and workers’ interests and aspirations. Alternative digital platforms operate according to governance and ownership status, such as cooperatives and not for profit associations, seeking at least a balance between the stakeholders taking action through the platform, sometimes promoting more transformative approaches. Those models are a growing movement that seeks to offer an economic, cultural and social sustainable model to the society.
Over the last ten years, many digital platforms offering such sharing spaces have emerged in Europe and in the United States but they remained mainly understudied. A few studies have shown that alternatives are present in diverse activities as local food distribution, professional services to local companies, open source software solutions and education, sharing privates good (cars, houses, tools, etc.) (Fuster Morrel, 2018; Vercellone et al. 2018).
According to Polanyi’s theory (1944) about the “substantive economy”, there can be a shift given to the digital economy direction. The de-commodification of labour, land and money, transformed in fictive merchandises, is possible by embedding the economy back into the social (in-real life) world. That transformative movement is to be led by organizations that prioritize the value of use and the community access over private, exclusive property and profit (Compain, Eynaud, Morel, Vercher-Chaptal, 2019). We argue that knowledge and digital tools are also key resources for an “embedded” economy that promotes the communities’ development. In view of the theory of commons (Ostrom 1990; Coriat 2015) we propose to conceptualize knowledge and digital tools as nonmaterial commons that alternative platforms share, contribute to develop and to protect. The aim of this paper is to reveal and analyze the core characteristics of alternative digital platforms in order to propose a typology of the new economic and organizational models that they could represent.
Through a qualitative study carried out in France with a sample of nine case studies we will first show that alternative platforms represent a “re-embedding” dynamic of resources. Secondly, we will specify the plurality of actors involved in this multistakeholders’ platforms and their diverse types of engagement (civic compromise, environmental causes, workers’ rights promotion, etc.). Our findings reveal new partnerships between public, private and community’s actors around commons and seeking general interest with eco sustainable models.


Carballa-Smichowski B., Coriat B. (2017), « Économie collaborative. Jalons pour une définition », Working Paper Programme de recherche EnCommuns (URL :http://encommuns.com/).
Choudary, S. P. (2018) The architecture of digital labour platforms: Policy recommendations on platform design for worker well-being. Geneva, ILO. ISBN 978-92-2-030770-0 (web pdf)
Compain, Guillaume; Philippe Eynaud, Lionel Morel, Corinne Vercher-Chaptal (2019). “Alternative Platforms and Societal Horizon : Characterisation and Strategies for Development”. SASE 31st Annual Meeting Fathomless Futures: Algorithmic and Imagined, Jun 2019, New York City, United States. https://halshs.archivesouvertes. fr/halshs-02140104
Coriat, B. (2015). Le retour des communs. La crise de l’idéologie propriétaire. Les Liens qui Libèrent.
Morell, M. F. (Ed.). (2018). Sharing Cities. A worldwide cities overview on platform economy policies with a focus on Barcelona (Dimmons Research Group). Barcelona: UOC.
Ostrom, E. (1990), Governing the commons: the evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press.
Polanyi, K. (1944). The great transformation: the political and economic origins of our time. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Vercellone, Carlo, and alt. “Data-Driven Disruptive Commons-Based Models.” DECODE Decentralised Citizens Owned Data Ecosystem, UE, 2018.