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The New Economics Foundation plans to conduct research to support the development of an online co-operative platform app owned by private hire drivers in Bradford and Leeds.

Background

The gig economy is estimated to have grown by 72 per cent in London and 28 per cent UK-wide in the past four years. But, so far, rewards from this tech-led boom have been enjoyed by only a handful of giants such as Uber and Deliveroo.

In exchange for the promise of flexibility, the pay and conditions of gig economy workers are being driven down. And disputes are raging about whether companies are exploiting the self-employment status of their workers.

Alternative worker-owned models offer a way to give workers more control, while remaining embedded in the communities that they serve. Drivers in Bradford and Leeds are developing a co-operative, worker-owned private hire app as an alternative to the big players.

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) will conduct research to test the viability of the model and support the drivers to uphold good working conditions and meet the transport needs of the local community.

Why the ShareLab Fund?

Through the ShareLab Fund, we hope to build relationships with the social technology sector, as well as local authority officers and commissioners and progressive businesses in Bradford and Leeds.

We want to learn from what has worked from other ShareLab projects, particularly on business model development and balancing commercial viability with ethical practice.

Our work as part of the ShareLab Fund programme

The fund will allow us to test the worker-owned private hire app model as a way of supporting the needs of local economies in a context of poorly paid work and local government cuts.

A co-operative, driver-owned platform integrated locally has potential to be more sustainable, as it has less of a growth or profit imperative.

As part of the user testing, we’ll explore how not just drivers but passengers could become owners or members of the model, for example through having a community share buy-in, or a multi-stakeholder ‘one member one vote’ mutual model. This would encourage local buy-in for the model and could improve economic and social outcomes locally over time.

Our hopes for the future?

The NEF will work closely with drivers to find a route into becoming a full co-operative through identifying potential barriers, such as licensing regulations, and making concrete recommendations for both the drivers and their local authorities to overcome these.

Beyond testing the viability of the app itself, we’ll extract concrete learning for how similar models could work for other service industries such as cleaners and care providers.

By Alice Martin, Work & Housing Lead, New Economics Foundation