Smart Villages as “Platform Places” – Tapping rural Scotland into the Platform Economy

Platform Places

Smart Villages are intended to help implement the ‘Platform Economy’ at local, rural levels.

As this Economist article There’s An App for That explains, Platforms are digital marketplaces populated by freelance workers, from Uber Taxis through expansion into numerous other industries, like cleaning, food delivery and home handyman services.

For the rural economy a further dynamic to incorporate is that of ‘Place-Based Approaches‘, such that the approach is one of ‘Platform Places’.

The experts at the Platform Design Toolkit share their experiences of applying the Platform model to local social need ecosystems:

These case study blogs tell the story of their platform design work to help co-design Palliative Care & Care Giving networks, a positive approach of the NHS and specifically by Durham and St Cuthbert’s Hospice to find a disruptive way to cope with all system shortcomings, and to provide to the community a new approach.

“Our goal was to instill a new mindset, that of seeing the clear advantages of leveraging the power of networks in their daily challenges, when thinking on how to provide health and care services to citizens.”

A great example of the key point – That Platforms can be thought of as social enterprise organizations too, enacted through innovative new models such as a ‘Platform Co-operative‘ – There is no distinguishing between management and workers, where “they are owned and governed by those who depend on them most—workers, users, and other relevant stakeholders.”

Other ideas help crystalize some practical features – For example the P2P Foundation offers a guide for Designing Positive Platforms explores building Welfare into gig work, and this sponsored advert from Zurich highlights the type of financial products that could be used for that purpose.

Digital Enterprise Centres

A key dynamic is of course connecting to the Digital Economy – These work spaces provide the ‘tools of the trade’, enabling new micro-businesses to participate in a variety of online digital markets.

We can see them as essential foundations for the Gig Economy, when you consider factors such as the challenges for employers looking to utilize them on a large scale, challenges such as helping to create belonging, through a better program of support for how managers can best support a gig economy workforce remote workers.

Coworking centres can contribute towards these goals as shared office environments are ideal for cultivating mentorship and support environments, and is also a sound business model in it’s own right – The gig economy has been driving an explosion in demand for coworking office space.

Smart Village Platform Services

Smart Villages are intended to support the development of these Platform ecosystems, in a few key segments common to rural communities:

Virtual Farmers Markets – Shop @ Biggar.online

A great scenario for exploring all of these dynamics is through the idea of a ‘Virtual Farmers Market’.

Across rural communities are many artisan vendors, those who sell various hand made craft products, and of course much farming. As such there is an availability of fresh foods and also nice presents for the home, an ideal inventory for online shopping.

The marketplace in this case is literally the aggregated product catalogue, highlighting the commonalities that define the role of the Platform organization:

  • Common ordering and delivery – Ideally customers can place one order and receive one delivery, not one from each vendor.
  • Shared incentive and loyalty scheme – Buying from one vendor earns loyalty points redeemable at another.

We’ll be prototyping the first of these through the Biggar.online shop, with a plan to develop online product demand through approaching local catalyst ‘lead products’, like Biggar Gin.

Travel Tours – Packaging and Marketing

Similarly another key sector and cluster of local microbusinesses is tourism and travel, encompassing venues, hotels and restaurants and travel tour operators.

Again we can look to the Biggar example site, notably key campaign themes like promoting The Big Festival events.

With a site-wide event calendar and directory tool for listing all types of businesses, it’s quick and simple to build event campaigns that drive ticket sales and other local bookings.

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