Sustainable, innovative and empowering; how Platform Co-ops and democratically owned tech can address the challenges and inequalities of the modern world

There is no doubt that the global pandemic has forced many to embrace the use of technology and digital resources to function and communicate effectively throughout the Covid-19 crisis. The co-operative movement however has been shouting from the roof tops about the benefits of democratically owned platform tech solutions long before the coronavirus was on the radar.

Through initiatives such as ‘Unfound’ started by Co-operatives UK and a consortium of co-operators in response to the National Co‑operative Development Strategy, the Co-operative movement has recognised platform co-ops as a sector that requires significant focus and investment.

It is also well understood by the co-operative sector that if platform co-ops are not supported, it will be left to commercial tech giants to take advantage, monopolise the markets and put greed and shareholder profit ahead of people and workers. Examples of this include recent gig economy worker disputes with Amazon, Uber, Deliveroo and others.

Democratically owned platform co-ops are perfectly placed to counter this narrative with sustainable, innovative and technologically enabled solutions which address challenges in the social and service sectors while promoting co-operative values and principles.

Platform co-ops have been incredibly successful in many different sectors including:

  • Utilities
  • Energy
  • Finance
  • Transport
  • Social care
  • Education, training and support
  • E-commerce, online delivery and click & collect
  • Events and live streaming
  • TV, radio and digital media
  • Design and marketing

Although it holds particular relevance in the time of a global pandemic and current economic crisis, co-operatives have long been at the forefront of building up the skills of the digital social economy, whether it be through education and awareness or enabling a culture of innovation and problem solving that creates prosperity and empowerment for all.

Coop Loan Fund has worked with a number of fantastic co-ops that have utilised digital platforms and tech to either enable or support their co-operatives, members, communities and customers to thrive:

Sheffield Live! – Community owned TV and radio station
The Globe / – Co-operative music venue broadcasting live stream events
Blake House Co-operative – London-based film-makers
Bristol Credit Union – Credit Union offering online member portal
Alpha Communication – Design & Marketing agency
Boundary Brewing – Belfast brewery with online shop and subscription service
Wild Thyme Wholefoods – Worker co-operative wholefood shop in Southsea with extensive online shop and delivery service.
Hempen – Online hemp products for the health of people, community and planet.

14 million people are members of a co‑op in the UK and you could be too. Join a co-op, support your community and be part of a movement that has the potential to change society for the better.

Coop Loan Fund provides unsecured loans to co-operatives with no personal guarantees up to £85,000 with ongoing advice and support and no set lending terms.

Unique lending: to co-ops, from co-ops.