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Brazil: Platform Cooperativism

Current Challenges

The previous sections argued that platform cooperativism in Brazil is complex, multifaceted, and connected to different sectors, which present concerns that range from innovation to combating precarious work. I also explained how cooperativism could be separated into “institutionalized” (IPC) and “non-institutionalized” (NPC). This last section will explain concrete examples of emerging projects and analyze the challenges encountered from a legal and governance perspective. Finally, I will argue that although platform cooperativism has grown in Brazil, it faces scale and coordination challenges, as well as legal issues concerning the traditional formats, which, in turn, prevent investment and more flexible management models.

A study by Unisinos professors in 2021 mapped emerging projects that can be classified as platform cooperatives. Below, I present a basic description of these projects based on information from this survey conducted between 2020 and 2021, differentiating them if associated with institutionalized cooperativism.

What is observed is a double phenomenon. First, on the side of institutionalized cooperativism, there is a tendency to continue with the cooperative legal format, despite the enormous difficulties in operationalizing investments and more flexible business models within the rigid legal regime of cooperativism. The second phenomenon is the emergence of projects that take on the values ​​of platform cooperativism but opt ​​for different legal formats. Some, like Cataki, prefer to keep their membership format and work with donations and sponsorships. Others, like AppJusto, prefer to work as a private company and institute clear rules for equity participation and prevent an investment fund from taking majority control of the votes. Finally, others choose to articulate individuals registered as Microentrepreneurs (MEI), who can issue their own invoices.

What is observed is a process of distancing from the traditional legal model of cooperativism in Brazil, which also happens within institutionalized cooperativism. The CargOn is a notorious example of this process. It was created with financial support from a cooperative based in the south to meet a demand for logistics and data from the cooperative sector. However, it opted for a private company model in which a cooperative made the financial contribution. Its statutes and internal rules also guarantee that it operates as a cooperative, from constructing participation, voting, and economic democracy rules through statutes.