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4 ways freelancers are disrupting the on-demand economy

Last week the New School held a conference on Platform Cooperativism.

Wha-what? If you’re not familiar, platform cooperativism is an innovative idea that turns the traditional Silicon Valley service platform model on its head.

To quote media culture thought leader Trebor Scholz,

“The idea behind platform cooperativism is about cloning the technological hearts of upstarts like Uber, Task Rabbit, or Airbnb, but putting the platform to work through a collective ownership model. Instead of oligarchs, it places co-ops, consumers, unions, producers and cities at the center of this economy.”

Sounds great, but is it possible? Turns out, many of the cooperative platforms out there are actually run by freelancers.

As service providers, freelancers quickly became attuned to the dark side of the on-demand economy – when consumers are saving and stockholders are banking, that usually means the workers are taking the economic hit. If this model continues for the long-term, the on-demand service economy threatens the common wealth by prolonging structural inequality, classism and racism.

But, freelancers have begun to come together to find better solutions for workers and consumers alike.

Through finding meaningful business models, like platform cooperativism, that empower workers, freelancers have been able to pursue their passions and create art… not schlock.

Check out 4 cooperative platforms happening right now:

1. Stocksy

Founded in 2013 by a freelancer sick of the devaluing of photography and tired stock imagery, Stocksy promises a better stock photo experience for artists and customers alike.

Every single photographer on Stocksy owns a share of the company – and the majority of revenues go straight to the artist’s pockets.

Because Stocksy empowers the artist behind the lens, its community of photographers is motivated to produce high-quality, beautiful images for today’s content connoisseurs.

No more photos of women laughing with salad? Sounds good to me.

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2. Loconomics

Owned by a collective of service professionals, Loconomics is an on-demand marketplace that cuts out the platform middle-man and puts the power in the hands of freelancers.

Similar to Handy, Loconomics allows customers to source local services and hire professionals to complete quick tasks on-demand. The difference is, Loconomics is built by workers and owned by workers.

This way, rather than stockholders and venture capitalists profiting off the platform, workers reap the benefits. As co-founder Josh Danielson observes, "A platform helping with self-employment shouldn't be owned by the 1 percent.”

3. Resonate

Remember that open letter Taylor Swift wrote to Spotify? She claimed that streaming music services make the lionshare of the profit and leaves artists in the dust. Doesn’t seem fair does it?

Resonate is out to remedy that. Funded by crowdsourcing as well as the cooperative ownership of musicians and music lovers alike, the platform aims to allow consumers to “stream until they buy” and empower musicians through transparent contracts and business practices.

4. Members Media

Members Media calls itself the Studio System for Independent Narrative Media. In other words: films, shorts, documentaries and narrative new media not produced by an established studio or production company.

Those in the film industry will be familiar with production companies taking in the majority of the profits while the cast and crew gets paid low, hourly wages or (gulp) sometimes not at all.

Member Media invites anyone involved in narrative media – from film makers to audience members – to become a member-owner on the platform thereby cutting out bloated production companies and enabling artists to build, use and own narrative content.

Are you part of a group of freelancers finding innovative solutions to common problems? Tell us how you collectively make freelancing better.

A new soul and media geek, Laura writes about sustainability, community, poetry and pop culture. Find her @Pennyscientist or on Freelancers Union.

Laura Murphy A new soul and media geek, Laura writes about community, poetry and pop culture.

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