Platform Organisations in Social Innovation: A Lot of Old Wine in a Bottle


The article investigates the influence of platform ideas, schemes, and production models outside the high-tech industry. To do this, it studies the organisational models of seven social innovation initiatives active in Italy in different sectors and promoted by different actors. The initiatives, even if non-high-tech, can be put in order as platform organisations because they host interactions between a variety of organisations and people, differently arranged with respect to them and largely autonomous and heterogeneous in terms of their interests, social networks, and purposes. The main purpose of this research has three sub-objectives. The first is to observe the development of extensive 'platformisation' processes of production systems. The second is to deepen trends in the high-tech sector through the observation of the non-high-tech sector. Finally, to create useful and usable knowledge to help political parties, trade unions, associations and governments plan solutions to protect workers of the platforms. Using a critical approach, the article reveals that these organisations are less innovative than their supporters report for three reasons. Firstly, because the concept of community is abused to describe these organisations, which present themselves mainly as coalitions or networks because their members lack a common sense of membership; secondly, because the research downsizes the presence of prosumers and peer-to-peer production and describes production and consumption processes that take place at separate times and in which peer production is only a marginal part of the production reality. In the end, because of these organisations work thanks to the job of a small group of people with high cognitive skills and relational capital that trigger production by activating, managing and capitalising a small crowd of workers.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v12i3p742

Keywords: Community; Knowledge brokers; Non-high-tech platform organisations; Social innovation


Andreotti A. (2018), “La ridefinizione degli spazi e dei luoghi del lavoro: il caso dei co-working”, in G. Nuvolati G. (ed), Sviluppo urbano e politiche per la qualità della vita, Firenze: Firenze University Press

Arcidiacono D. (2019), “Triangulating net-nography and digital methods to study the peer2peer economy”, SAGE Research Methods Cases.

Arcidiacono D., A. Gandini, and I Pais (2018), “Sharing what? The ‘sharing economy’ in the sociological debate”, The Sociological Review, 66(2): 275-288.

Arvidsson A. (2008), “The ethical economy of customer coproduction”, Journal of Macromarketing, 28(4): 326-338.

Arvidsson A. (2009), “The ethical economy: Towards a post-capitalist theory of value”, Capital & Class, 33(1): 13-29.

Asadullah A., I. Faik, and A. Kankanhalli (2018), "Digital Platforms: A Review and Future Directions", PACIS 2018 Proceedings. 248, retrived February 24, 2018 (

Bagnasco A. (2017), “Rifare società”, Sociología del Trabajo, 91: 66-84.

Bahrami H. (1992), “The Emerging Flexible organisation: Perspectives from Silicon Val-ley”, California Management Review, 34(4): 33-52.

Bandinelli C., A. Gandini (2019), “Hubs vs Networks in the Creative Economy: Towards a ‘Collaborative Individualism’”, in R.

Gill, A. Pratt, T. Virani (eds), Creative Hubs in Question. Dynamics of Virtual Work, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 89-110.

Barbera F., T. Parisi (2019), Innovatori sociali: la sindrome di prometeo nell’Italia che cambia, Bologna: il Mulino.

Benkler Y. (2017), “Peer production, the commons, and the future of the firm”, Strategic organisation, 15(2): 264–274.

Benkler Y., H. Nissenbaum (2006), “Commons-based peer production and virtue”, Journal of political philosophy, 14(4): 394–419.

Bernardi M., G. Mura (2018), “Sharing economy e istituzioni pubbliche: l’innovazione sociale nei contesti urbani”, Sociologia Italiana, 11: 51-75.

Bologna S., A. Fumagalli (eds. 1997), Il lavoro autonomo di seconda generazione, Mila-no: Feltrinelli.

Borgatti S.P., P.C. Foster (2003), “The network paradigm in organisational research: A review and typology”, Journal of management, 29(6): 991-1013.

Burt R. (1992), Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition, Cambridge: Har-vard University Press.

Busacca M. (2018), “Università imprenditoriale e innovazione sociale a Milano e Vene-zia”, Economia e Società Regionale, 3: 109-131.

Busacca M. (2019), Innovazione sociale. Città, politiche e forme di ricostruzione del mercato, Milano: Bruno Mondadori

Busacca M. (2019b), “Vecchie professioni per nuove sfide: lavoratori sociali come bro-ker dell’innovazione sociale”, La Rivista delle Politiche Sociali, 1: 109-125.

Busacca M., F. Zandonai F. (2019), “Trends and challenges of the Italian Third Sector in the field of community assets regeneration. New convergences between public benefit and social entrepreneurship”, Partecipazione e Conflitto, 2, forthcoming

Busso S., E. Gargiulo (2017), “Una società armoniosa? Il posto del conflitto nelle prati-che e nel discorso sul Terzo Settore”, Cartografie sociali. Rivista di sociologia e scienze umane, 3: 137-154.

Camarinha-Matos L.M., H. Afsarmanesh (2005), “Collaborative networks: a new scientific discipline”, Journal of intelligent manufacturing, 16(4-5): 439-452.

Chesbrough H., W. Vanhaverbeke, and J. West (eds. 2006), Open innovation: Researching a new paradigm, Oxford: Oxford University Press on Demand.

Collins R. (2005), Interaction Ritual Chains, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Da Roit B. (2010), Strategies of care: Changing elderly care in Italy and the Netherlands, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

De Tullio M.F. (2018), “Commons towards new participatory institutions: the neapoli-tan experience”, in P. Gielen and N. Dockx (eds.), Commonism: a new aesthetics of the real, Amsterdam: Valiz, pp. 299-312.

d’Ovidio M., A. Gandini (2019), “The functions of social interaction in the knowledge-creative economy: Between co-presence and ICT-mediated social relations”, Socio-logica, 13(1): 51-66.

Fumagalli A. (2017), Economia politica del comune. Sfruttamento e sussunzione nel ca-pitalismo bio-cognitivo, Roma: DeriveApprodi.

Guarascio D., S. Sacchi (2018), “Digital platform in Italy. An analysis of economic and employment trends”, INAP Policy brief, 8

Ivaldi S., I. Pais, and G. Scaratti (2018), “Coworking(s) in the Plural: Coworking Spaces and New Ways of Managing”, in S. Taylor and S. Luckman (eds.), The New Normal of Working Lives. Dynamics of Virtual Work, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 219-241.

Kawulich B.B. (2012), “Collecting data through observation”, in C. Wagner, B.B. Kawu-lich, and M. Garner (eds.), Doing social research: A global context, Berkshire: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, pp. 150-160.

Leira A., C. Saraceno (2002), “Care: actors, relationships and contexts”, in B. Hobson, J. Lewis, and B. Siim, Contested concepts in gender and social politics, Cheltenham and Northampton: Edward Elgar, pp. 55-83.

Maino F., M. Ferrera (eds. 2013), Primo rapporto sul secondo welfare in Italia, Torino: Centro Einaudi.

Powell W.W. (1990), “Neither market nor hierarchy: network forms of organisation”, in B. Staw, L.L. Cummings (eds.), Research in organisational Behavior, Greenwich: JAI, pp. 295-336.

Sena B. (2016), “L’approccio del case study nella ricerca socio-economica”, Sociologia e ricerca sociale, 111: 5-22.

Sproull L., S.B. Kiesler (1992), Connections: New ways of working in the networked or-ganisation, Boston: MIT press.

Trigilia C. (2007), La costruzione sociale dell'innovazione: economia, società e territorio, Firenze: Firenze University Press.

van der Have R.P., L. Rubalcaba (2016), “Social innovation research: An emerging area of innovation studies?”, Research Policy, 45(9): 1923-1935.

Van Dijck J., T. Poell, and M. De Waal (2018), The platform society: Public values in a connective world, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Weber M. (1978) [1922], Economy and Society, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.