Managing tensions during the development of platform cooperatives

Project info

Work package
  • Work
Sustainability threat
  • Feedback Cycles
  • Reconciling stakeholder interests

Study info

Description of Study
Platform cooperatives promise to provide an alternative organisational model of worker ownership and governance to heavily criticised investor-owned gig platforms, but have until now remained relatively rare. This study examines the formation of platform co-ops to gain insight into the reasons and mechanisms behind their slow but steady growth in Europe. We build on paradox perspective to analyse how founders of platform co-ops manage competing demands during the start-up phase. Based on extensive desk research on 48 platform co-ops and 16 interviews with founders of platform co-ops, we find that the management of paradoxical tensions gives birth to and matures platform co-ops when done so successfully, but results in an untimely death of the organisation if one tensional pole remains dominant.
Study research question
What tensions do platform cooperatives face from competing demands during their formation, and how do founders manage these tensions?
Collection provenance
  • Collected during project
Collection methods
  • Interview
  • Archival
Personal data
External Source
Source description
Subset of worker-run platforms
File formats
  • Microsoft Word
  • NVivo
Data types
  • Unstructured
  • English
  • Dutch
Coverage start
Coverage end
Spatial coverage
European Union + United Kingdom
Collection period start
Collection period end


Unit description
Sample size
Sampling method
Platform co-ops
Countries of establishment
Variable type
Variable name
Variable description
Discipline-specific operationalizations
Conflict of interest

Data packages

Formation of platform co-ops in the European gig economy

Data package DOI
This database is compiled as part of my PhD project on the challenges that gig workers face when organising themselves in a worker-owned and worker-governed cooperative enterprise. The research project aims to provide insight into the viability and competitive (dis)advantages of platform cooperatives as one institutional approach for organising decent work in the gig economy by analysing the conditions under which cooperatives of gig workers can become resilient. To answer a sub-question, I used semi-structured interviews. The explorative design of this study allowed me to investigate the tensions that platform co-ops face from competing demands during their formation, and how founders manage these tensions. I used an interview protocol with ten basic questions, and some guidelines for asking further questions. First, I listed the self-described platform co-ops in the European gig economy from a directory by Internet of Ownership ( All cases that had their contact information available were contacted, and with additional snowballing 15 out of 48 identified cases accepted an interview. This includes also 4 cases that failed during formation or had to make a restart: Faircab, FoodFairies, Smart Hungary, and Smart NL. Geographically the cases are concentrated in Western-Europe, most prominently in France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Germany, and to a lesser extent also in Spain and Italy. In all cases one or two founders could be identified, resulting in a total of 16 interviews. All interviews were transcribed verbatim and personal names were removed from the files. Analysis was assisted by NVivo 12 for open and axial coding, after which selective coding was conducted more manually while writing the findings and comparing with the paradox perspective literature.
Restricted Access
User license
Retention period


Paradoxical Tensions as a Double-Edged Sword: Analysing the Development of Platform Cooperatives in the European Gig Economy

Journal of Management Inquiry


Interview protocol for founders of platform co-ops (in English).
2021-11-24 13:58:28


Ethical assessment
Ethical committee
Faculty Ethics assessment Committee (FEtC) of the Faculty of Humanities, Utrecht University