This story is from the 2017 Access FYI: How Young Innovators Are Connecting the World. Explore more from this issue

How Decentralized Collaboration Is Becoming a Central Idea

Freelancers will play a key role in the workforce of the future.

One vision for the future of work: a company that’s not actually a company at all but, rather, a decentralized group of collaborators who create and run large-scale projects online. It’s a natural evolution as the gig economy grows, with more than 54 million freelancers now working in the U.S.

Leading the way is the London-based start-up Colony, “a global marketplace that connects talent and opportunities based on skills and experience,” according to co-founder Collin Vine. With an interface that’s similar to those of project management applications such as Asana and Trello, Colony gives organizations the chance to open up projects to a network of trusted contributors and gives freelancers the ability to bid on roles in projects that match their expertise.

How It Works

The platform keeps track of who’s doing what and can even delegate the right task to the right person at the right time, Vine says. When freelancers complete a task, they receive a proportional stake in the project equivalent to the value they’ve contributed, as well as reputation points that increase their influence within the platform. Because there’s no defined management hierarchy in a colony, work can adapt quickly to evolving project needs.

Colony is powered by a blockchain — a concept that arose from the world of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. A blockchain is a super-secure, shared global system that operates on multiple decentralized nodes and serves as a virtual ledger where users can record and share information that’s then accessible to all designated users (think Google Docs).

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