If the global co-operative movement would give out awards for the most unique co-operatives in different sectors, these two would both deserve the award in the healthcare sector.
Savvy is a platform co-operative founded in 2017 that enables its members to become participants in (mostly medical) research and allows researchers to hire those members for their research. These might be phone interviews, product testing or online surveys.
The compensation received by the gigs is significantly above the minimum wage - for example there have been gigs that offer $75 for a half-hour phone interview for those who regularly drink health beverages. Some of them are more intensive - such as a gig that offered $9000 for people willing to take part in a sleep research project that required participants to spend 3 weeks in an institutional setting.
MIData is platform cooperative founded by a Swiss doctor Ernst Hafen in 2015. It enables the members to save health data on a protected cloud service and share it with researchers. In the first MIData project, members who had went through a post-bariatric surgery provided researchers with a record of their weight over a period of time. Another early study had members who were part of a trial of a new multiple sclerosis drug share researchers data about their cognitive and motor skills through an app developed for this purpose. MIData will also be offering their members a marketplace for health apps.
The researchers typically pay the cooperative for the members participation, and the members democratically choose how the money is spent. Often the money is used to support research that the members care about.
The founder Dr. Hafen sees the co-operative model as perfectly suitable for the project, giving the following reasoning in one of his interviews:
“A cooperative belongs to the members; each member has a vote. This dovetails nicely with the fact that your genome and mine and that of every other man and woman in the world are extraordinarily similar. You have millions of letters in your genome and I do too; the difference between us is one out of a thousand of these letters.”
He also sees the GDPR directive on the right for everyone to own their own health data as an important step for co-operatives that seek to advance a more democratic ownership of this increasingly valuable part of the data economy. For him, the current model of platform shareholders owning all the data users produce as “digital feudalism” will be outdated in a decade, partly due to reforms like GDPR.
Here are two ideas of straight-forward ways on how the public sector and big co-ops could support co-operatives like Savvy and MIData:
- Participants for publicly funded medical research and focus group of co-operative product testing could be recruited using Savvy and MIData.
- Public and co-operative hospitals could enable patients to participate in research projects using Savvy and MIData when they visit the hospitals.
How could this look like in practice?
- When booking a visit to a hospital online, you would also be offered an option to give a saliva sample to a MIData project and join the co-operative while making the visit.
- When buying pet insurance through a cooperative financial institution, you would be offered an option to take part in a product testing trial through Savvy, where you attach a GPS tracker to your pet’s collar. You are given a discount on the pet insurance during the trial, and the financial institution can use the trial to find out whether this is a way to reduce pet insurance costs.
These might not be the best examples but they are examples of ideas that I believe could benefit the platform cooperative movement. It could be useful to come up with ideas on what big co-operatives could do to help platform co-operatives, and what platform co-operatives could do to help big co-operatives.