Call for Action Research Partnerships: Decent Work Standards in the Platform Economy in the Global South

Posted on 08.08.2019

This is a call for proposals for one-year funded partnerships with the Fairwork project, which acts to ensure decent work standards for workers on digital platforms. Proposals must be submitted by 19 September via email to with cc to, and 

In brief, we are seeking two partner organisations for a one-year action research project that will expand Fairwork’s reach in the global South to new countries beyond its current focus on India and South Africa.  The projects will involve an initial stakeholder workshop, data-gathering to rate about 10 local digital labour-broking platforms against five Fairwork principles of decent work, creation and support for local action plans, and dissemination of results.  Funding of CAD$15,200 (Canadian $) is available per partner organisation. Please see below for further information, and feel free to share this page with any relevant partners

Detailed Description

“Fair Work in the Platform Economy: A Global South Perspective” is an action research project funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre via the Centro Latam Digital as part of the “Future of Work in the Global South” initiative.  The project is co-ordinated by Jean-Paul Van Belle and Pitso Tsibolane at the Centre for IT and National Development in Africa at the University of Cape Town, in collaboration with Mark Graham at the Oxford Internet Institute and Richard Heeks at the Centre for Development Informatics, University of Manchester.  It forms an extension to existing action research of the Fairwork project.

Fairwork’s main focus is rating digital work platforms – mainly but not exclusively in the ride-hailing, delivery and domestic work sectors – according to five decent work principles: pay, conditions, contracts, management, and governance.  Evidence is gathered from the platforms themselves and from worker interviews, with each platform being scored between 0 and 10 (see examples here).  Our aim is to press platforms to improve pay and working conditions; mainly through the use of these ratings by consumers, by platforms themselves, and by others but also through other means.

Partners We Are Seeking

We are seeking partners in two countries of the Global South to help expand Fairwork beyond its existing activity in India and South Africa.  Following partner selection (months 1-2 of the project), the partners will be asked, in collaboration with members of the Fairwork project team, to undertake the following activities:

  1. Set-Up: initial in-country stakeholder workshop to discuss design and implementation of the planned project with platforms, worker associations, government representatives, NGOs, etc.  Local ethical approval for data gathering must also be obtained. (Months 2-4)
  2. Data Gathering: rating of platforms against Fairwork principles via anonymised worker interviews and interaction with local platform managers to obtain internal evidence and to encourage higher standards.  We anticipate between 6-12 local platforms will be rated, with each rating involving interviews with 6-10 workers. (Months 4-9)
  3. Dissemination: dissemination of results to local stakeholders with co-development of strategic action plans for platforms, workers and government to improve platform work standards.  Dissemination of results to Fairwork community through attendance at a special workshop, and to international research forums including attendance at an international conference and development of a peer-reviewed research publication. (Months 10-12)


The following amounts will be available for each partner (note some viring of budget between headings may be possible; all amounts are in Canadian dollars):

– Local research team general costs including initial stakeholder workshop: CAD3,000

– Local research team data-gathering: CAD3,000

– Local action-related costs: CAD1,500

In addition, there is an amount earmarked of 2 x CAD2,500 for attendance at a Fairwork international special workshop, and CAD2,700 for attendance to present at one international conference.  The total is therefore CAD15,200. A separate budget is available to cover the costs of core team member visits to enable their participation in project set-up activities.

Format of Proposal

  1. Lead Contact Person: title, name, email address, phone no.
  2. Organisation Details: name, address, web address
  3. Statement of Purpose: why do you/does your organisation wish to collaborate with Fairwork (i.e. what benefits will it bring to you); and why is your country a good one for Fairwork to expand into (500 words)
  4. Statement of Capacity: what expertise do you/your organisation have that mean you are a good choice for partnership.  Your statement (two pages) would cover aspects such as:
    1. names of main researchers who will be working on the project
    2. previous work on platform work or related topics (gig economy, digital economy, decent work, precarious/temporary work)
    3. previous experience running an action research project including running multi-stakeholder workshops, undertaking data-gathering and analysis, development and support for implementation of action plans, and dissemination of results to wider practitioner and research communities
    4. specific contacts and capacity relating to platform work in your country.
  5. Platforms: please suggest 6 to 12 local platforms that you would intend to rate against the Fairwork principles.
  6. Local Stakeholders: which key local stakeholders will be engaged as part of the project, and how will you engage with them?  
  7. Ethics: what local ethical clearance will be required for the data gathering and how long will this take?
  8. Action Plan: detail the project activities that you intend to perform on a timeline.
  9. Impact Plan: how would you aim to use the platform ratings to improve worker pay and conditions; are there other actions you would be able to undertake or support others in undertaking?
  10. Outputs: which outputs do you foresee being able to work towards (e.g. public media, specific academic journal or conference papers)?
  11. Attachments: please attach a two-page CV for each of the named main action researchers who will be involved with the project; focus on elements of specific relevance to this action research project: academic qualifications, experience of running action research projects, academic- and practitioner-related outputs.


  • What is a digital work platform? Our technical definition is, “a set of digital resources – including services and content – that enable value-creating interactions between consumers and individual service-providing workers”.  Examples include Uber, UberEats, Didi and GoJek. Our focus in this project will particularly be on platforms that have local, in-country representation since they will be easier to engage with than international platforms that are not represented.
  • Is rating the platforms the only activity?  No: the aim of the project is to improve pay and conditions for platform workers and we are open to additional, or possibly even alternative, suggestions as to how best this may be achieved.
  • Which countries are eligible?  Any country located in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and considered to have low or middle income per the World Bank definition.
  • What are the payment terms? You will be expected to prepay local research expenses, to be refunded in line with the project timeline/deliverables. Where possible, UCT could book and pay for other expenses e.g. international flights and accommodation.
  • What happens at the end of the year?  We do not currently have lines of funding to support extension of the projects but, assuming the projects show the basis for improving platform work standards, we will support partners in seeking additional funding.
  • For more information about Fairwork, visit our Frequently Asked Questions Page.
  • Any other questions; anything not clear?  Just ask: cc

Do please circulate to those who might be relevant partners.