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The first idea. Depending on who you talk to, the gig economy was supposed to be the end of everything – especially reliable income and benefits for workers and families – or the start of something new, a global marketplace where an individual’s options for career development and revenue streams were effectively unlimited. 

The second idea. Coming from the original crowdsourcing movement, as many in our team did, we always saw the opportunity for participant contributions to a brand be compensated fairly. Those contributions could take multiple forms: ideas, product feedback, original content or brand advocacy or whatever else. The two common aspects to the current state of consumer contributions to brands is that 1) they are valued and often form the basis of innovative products and marketing campaigns and R&D efforts and 2) they have gone largely uncompensated. Certain communities have offered some rewards but the number of efforts that have received virtually no tangible compensation over the last 15 years is somewhere around 99%. 

Merging the ideas. The muddled state-of-work is different for everyone right now but perhaps we’re only a few steps into this new economy. If the gig economy is just a transitory step to the next place, maybe we’re just missing the key element that drives so much of our world: money. It wouldn’t be a shock, would it? There are clear intrinsic rewards for someone to contribute to a brand and sometimes those are enough to sustain a relationship, but if a consumer could collaborate with a brand and actually see real financial returns, what could that look like when they have access to thousands more brands like it? What would it look like for the larger workforce at scale? And what could it mean for brands to be able to have this group of truly incentivized consumers in their employ? 

These are all questions we’re considering on as we work on our Participation Commerce™ pilot projects with new and existing clients throughout 2019.

This article originally appeared in our #IOVIAradar newsletter. If you want more like it along with curated articles, introductions to our team members, job postings and more, you can subscribe here.