Where, when, and how work is done is changing. Advances in artificial intelligence, automation, and data processing continue to shift responsibilities from workers to digital systems. These disruptions are often unpredictable and still unfolding.
To navigate these challenges, we need research that imagines, builds, and explores new visions of a fairer future of work. One starting point for a near-term alternative is the platform co-op model, which carries the cooperative principles into the digital economy.
On April 22, 2019, the New School for Social Research in New York City launched the Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy (ICDE). The Institute examines digital businesses and projects that are owned and governed by workers and users.
The cooperative digital economy is an under-researched area in the fields of anthropology, political science, sociology, history, and economics. This emerging field is closely linked with labor studies and cooperative studies. In business schools, this field of study is situated in the areas of finance, entrepreneurship, and organizational studies. In law schools, the pertinent areas are governance and corporate structure.
The ICDE will serve as the research arm of the Platform Cooperativism Consortium, a growing international network that supports the cooperative platform economy, founded by Trebor Scholz, an Associate Professor at the Milano School for Policy, Management, and Environment and The New School. Scholz serves as the founding director of the ICDE, and holds a fellowship at Open Society Foundations, which partially supported the creation of the ICDE.
“In keeping with The New School’s legacy, this institute will break new ground by supporting critical, interdisciplinary approaches to studying the emerging platform co-op ecosystem,” said David Van Zandt, President of The New School.
Tim Marshall, Provost of The New School, said, “The Institute’s research of the digital economy, merging innovation and multi-disciplinary scholarship in service of social equity, continues the founding ethos and approach of The New School. So it’s fitting that the first and only institute solely dedicated to the cooperative digital economy, and its appeal to democratic governance and employee ownership, launches here. I offer my congratulations to Trebor Scholz for creating this center that will be at the forefront of this emerging and rapidly evolving area of study.”
The Institute convenes annual conferences, awards student fellowships, teaches courses on the digital economy, publishes, and hosts an annual cohort of Research Fellows from around the world.