27-28 giugno 2023, Amsterdam, Paesi Bassi

Global Perspectives on Platforms, Labor & Social Reproduction

Nell’ambito della conferenza, il team di ricerca di Weplat ha presentato il paper:

Community, platform and territorial welfare. A critical local case study


The impact of the platform economy on sectors such as tourism and transportation has been extensively studied over the last decade. However, the role of technology in intermediating welfare services such as social and health assistance, childcare and education, and mental and physical health received less attention (Ticona Mateescu 2018; Flanagan 2018). These platforms are often on the sidelines of the current public and academic debate on the platform and the gig economy, despite the transformations they have been implementing in the welfare sector. The welfare platforms assume a different connotation than the traditional on-demand platforms because of the peculiarities of the services they provide. In fact, these platforms could aim to become “digital platforms for the public good” (Huws 2020) by using the technological potential of the platforms and: redistribute the public resources; improve pre-existing services and develop new ones on a local level. For us, the focus of this process is on how each local context shapes the welfare areas (healthcare, ect.) and the platforms’ organization, as well as the relations with public actors, third sector and citizens. This new way of welfare services supply shapes the provider/beneficiary relationship through the mediation of the platform. The user takes on multiple roles and often becomes beneficiary, user and customer at the same time (Busemeyer et al. 2022; Previtali Salvati 2021; Robeyns 2005). On the other hand, the “disembedding” process of social relations, which takes place in on-demand platforms, seems to re-configure the ties on the territory by promoting the creation of new networks between local institutions and third-sector organizations. In the welfare platform space, users can become aware of their needs, and they can try and provide a solution for themselves independently.   The contribution aims to investigate the welfare platform phenomenon focusing on WelfareX, an Italian welfare platform. WelfareX was created in 2020 and is the result of a collaboration between public administrations and Third Sector organizations.  The analysis is based on 34 qualitative interviews carried out between February and December 2022 with the creators of the platform (CEO, executive), third-sector operators, welfare managers, and users in two cities in Northern Italy (Biella and Sondrio). The paper aims to investigate the following questions:

  • What is the relationship between the welfare provider, the WelfareX platform, and the user?
  • Do the welfare platforms provide complementary or replacement services compared to the welfare services present on the territory?
  • Do the platforms implement pre-existing welfare services or are they an innovation created by new social actors?
  • Are the platforms embedded in the territory capable of creating a new organization of the welfare goods and services? Are they capable of creating new networks of public, private and third-sector actors?
  • How empowering can the local platforms providing welfare services be for the users?

The paper presents some of the results of the WEPLAT research project – Welfare systems in the age of platforms (https://www.weplat.it/) funded by Fondazione Cariplo.


Cecilia Manzo, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Marialuisa Villani, Università di Padova

Martina Visentin, Università di Padova


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