If in the United States people start from platforms to reach cooperation, in the old Europe the road seems marked in the opposite direction.
Fairbnb took part in the fifth edition of the “School of Community Cooperatives“, entitled “#oltreconfine – Community platforms for plural economies“, a collaborative event hosted in Cerreto Alpi (Reggio Emilia) by “I Briganti di Cerreto” cooperative and attended by many activists from the cooperative world, researchers, protagonists of successful cases.

Here are some thoughts collected during this stimulating meeting and data that we have found on Vita.it.

Roberto Covolo

The theme of this year – the organizers explaned – was to focus on the paradigm and practices of community cooperation as a tool to feed new forms of mutualism and local economies promoted by inhabitants. At the center of the conversations, the experiences, the learning and the skills gained over the years, with the aim of nurturing a circular reflection with the participants, who have always been co-protagonists and co-producers of this common training experience.

Giovanni Teneggi (Confcooperative director Reggio Emilia): “Everywhere and unexpectedly we discover social and economic initiatives aimed at rearranging pieces of community .
In the sea of ​​total accessibility, with no more time and space, the number of people looking for places to live and feel again is growing.

Community cooperation, even if only for being dreamed and thought, acted in its first steps, restores to the territories and to the entire country a social capital and an initiative that we thought we had lost. A real infrastructure, deep and decisive. Listening to its projects, sharing its dream, accompanying initial, partial, even approximate, realizations keeps this distinctive heritage alive. It is necessary for our competitiveness, perhaps even for our survival, throughout the territory.

The community initiative projects that give new life to villages and neighborhoods, around the country, with new forms of cooperation between people, companies and institutions, are an image of the cultural and social present that we live in, of its most intimate elements of crisis, of its most secret potentials.

New inhabitants – fathers and mothers – who adopt countries and neighborhoods. A common gesture, civic, political and of shocking love. From here, today, a credible definition of citizenship passes everywhere: from land of tradition or birth, to land of adoption.

You can stay anywhere in the world and live well on condition that you are there together with others sharing the house.”

In the closing panel of the event we participated in a debate dedicated to the platforms: acting inside or out?

In Italy a social enterprise – Wonder Grottole – is creating a new community, thanks to the regeneration of some houses, with the aim of giving new life to the historic center of the village.
To do this, it has created a new alliance with the Airbnb platform. Their project is called “Italian Sabbatical”: Airbnb funds Wonder Grottole for four people who will become co-hosts for three months, from June to August 2019.

Marta Maineri (Vita.it) considers this one “an interesting experience, for several reasons. The first: while intellectuals and activists interpret the “platform cooperativism” mainly as the creation of new cooperative digital startups, in Italy it is certainly more interesting to experience the opposite way, that of the platformization of cooperatives (or social enterprises).

The second: in this case, Wonder Grottole has not created its own platform from scratch – with all the difficulties this entails especially in terms of scalability – but is experiencing a symbiotic relationship with a large platform. “

But the question that arises is: what kind of symbiosis are we talking about?

The gap between mutualism and parasitism passes from a fundamental question: will the territory be able to convert the social capital into other forms of capital, including the economic one?

The two cases (Fairbnb and Wonder Grottole) stimulated a very lively debate led by Alessandro Pirani (who was the moderator of the second day). The conclusions were then by Paolo Venturi.

We talked a lot and rightly about the negative impacts that the big digital platforms produce due to the lack of guarantees they offer to their workers, for the not always fair distribution of opportunities, for the urban imbalances that in some cases generate, for the data that are improperly used.

But the platform model is perhaps the most interesting proposed by the so-called digital transformation, because:its organizational form meets the expectations of the people of our time, because it offers endless possibilities for new services and because, above all, to function, it must be an aggregator of people and communities and therefore potentially an open and inclusive instrument.

The sharing economy platforms could represent a very relevant socio-technological innovation vehicle, in particular for realizing the cooperative principle of “concern for community”, also considering that, according to the most recent data (Euricse, 2015) in the Italian cooperative enterprises are 70 thousand, with 130 billion euros of turnover (8.5% of Italian GDP) and 1.7 million employees and with a very consistent positioning in some very significant areas of the national economy such as food and welfare and welfare. Repositioning in a platform sense even only a part of this sector would mean introducing an important system innovation.

So what is good about the platform model that can be made by the non-profit world? And what can the services that want to do social innovation and non-profit services teach?

Is it really fundamental for a non-profit operator to know and apply the platform model to its services?
Certainly not always and at all costs, but understanding their logics and why they are successful helps to understand what people are asking and how to respond to them.
The risk, not too far away, is that the large platforms will platform social services with their rules and with also the use of data ..and our needs.

Useful links

To write this post we have gathered a lot of data and text from:
Vita.it http://www.vita.it

We met and became friends with:
I Briganti di Cerreto: https://www.ibrigantidicerreto.com/

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From positive platforms to sustainable platforms

Meetings with local communities: