Book: The Platform Livelihoods Project

Digital platforms are changing how individuals around the world find work, and how entrepreneurs, enterprises and farmers connect with markets.

The Platform Livelihoods Project, represented by the eleven studies appearing in this volume (with more to follow in 2024) set out to explore two broad questions:

  • What are the experiences of individual workers and sellers as they rely on platforms to earn a living? and,
  • What are the opportunities to improve those experiences?

We define platform livelihoods as the ways people earn a living by working, trading, renting, and creating in digital marketplaces. Our studies demonstrate how “platform livelihoods” are more fractional, more social, more trade-focused, and more numerous than gig work alone. In some markets, one worker in five relies on a platform, for at least some of their livelihood.

The Platform Livelihoods Project was coordinated by Caribou Digital, and involved more than 40 contributing authors and researchers, affiliated with institutions including: DFS Lab, Georgia Institute of Technology, Habitus Insight, inABLE, Kilimo Source, Lagos Business School, Learn.Ink, Northumbria University, Qhala, RISE (Riset Inovasi dan Edukasi) Indonesia, Story × Design, University of Ghana, and Value for Women.

Conducted between 2018 and 2023 in Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda, the studies drew on over 700 qualitative interviews, 140 survey respondents, 70 expert interviews, 16 platform case studies, and 70 video profiles—mostly self-shot. Each interview and story is both a unique experience, and a glimpse into the experiences of millions more people around the world, earning a living in digital marketplaces and on social media platforms.

The book will be available for purchase and for open-access/free download from this page on April 15, 2024. 

The Platform Livelihoods Project Caribou Digital and Jonathan Donner, editors. Foreword by Chris Locke, Caribou Digital.  (Farnham, Surrey, UK: Caribou Digital Publishing, April 2024).

Chapters and Contributors

  1. The platform livelihoods project. Jonathan Donner, Caribou Digital
  2. Micro-entrepreneurs in a platform era. Annabel Schiff, Caribou Digital | Listen to Podcast
  3. Platform-led upskilling. Marissa Dean, Jonathan Donner, Jessica Osborn, & Annabel Schiff, Caribou Digital | Listen to Podcast
  4. Platform livelihoods: An evidence review. Shikoh Gitau, Nasubo Ongoma, & Tessie Waithira, Qhala; Jonathan Donner, Caribou Digital
  5. Platform livelihoods & COVID-19: Young people’s stories of resilience. Miranda Grant & Abubakar Nuuman, Story X Design; Grace Natabaalo, Caribou Digital | Listen to Podcast
  6. Platform livelihoods: Working, trading, renting, and creating in Kenya’s digital marketplaces. Shikoh Gitau, Nasubo Ongoma, & Tessie Waithira, Qhala; Jonathan Donner, Caribou Digital | Listen to Podcast
  7. Social agriculture. Catherine Kamanu & Finn Richardson, Kilimo Source; Eliza Casey, Christian McDonaugh, & Eoghan McDonaugh, Habitus Insight; Adam Wills,; Reem Talhouk, Northumbria University; Emrys Schoemaker, Caribou Digital | Listen to Podcast
  8. Women in the platform economy. Nana Akua Anyidoho & Akosua Keseboa Darkwah, Centre for Policy Studies, University of Ghana; Therese Nana Mokoah Ackatia-Armah, researcher; Shikoh Gitau, Wanjiru Mburu, Fred Mucha, Ann Muthiru, Mariah Ngutu, & Nasubo Ongoma, Qhala; Olayinka David-West and Raymond Onuoha, Lagos Business School; Renée Hunter, Value for Women; Savita Bailur & Grace Natabaalo, Caribou Digital | Listen to Podcast
  9. Platform livelihoods and youth with disabilities. James Angoye, Irene Mbari-Kirika, & Julius Mburra, inABLE; Emily Parcell & Bruce Walker, Georgia Institute of Technology; Jonathan Donner & Hélène Smertnik, Caribou Digital | Listen to Podcast
  10. How many people have platform livelihoods? Caroline Mangowal, LeRoy Tim Ruhupatty, & Erlyn Shukmadewi, RISE Indonesia; Jake Kendall, DFS Lab; Jonathan Donner, Caribou Digital
  11. The platform livelihoods of influencers. Wangari Njathi, Pepperdine University | Listen to Podcast
  12. Platform-enabled financial services. Marissa Dean, Mark Wensley, & Savita Bailur, Caribou Digital | Listen to Podcast
  13. Conclusion: Investing in inclusive platform livelihoods. Jonathan Donner, Caribou Digital