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Peers Advocacy Group Now Run by RelayRides Founder Shelby Clark

Clark said the group will turn its focus to building products that support sharing-economy workers.

Peers, the sharing economy advocacy group with some 250,000 members, has named RelayRides founder Shelby Clark as its new executive director.

Peers organizes petitions and meetups on behalf of the people — usually independent contractors — who provide their homes, cars and labor to power sites like Airbnb, Lyft and TaskRabbit.

The Columbia Journalism Review has called Peers an “astroturf group” for these companies (implying that it is engaged in fake grassroots activism on behalf of corporations), but Clark said in an interview that the group is funded by individual donors and intends to support sharing-economy workers, not their well-funded companies. “We are in the corner of the members,” he said.

The group has an unusual structure, operating as a non-profit foundation that also owns a benefit corporation, a separate unit that can pursue profits as long as it does so by to satisfy social aims, in this case, the rights of contract workers. Clark is director of the foundation, a post previously held led by Natalie Foster, a community organizer. In Clark’s hands, it will shift some focus to building products that help workers.

“This is important income they rely on with great flexibility they appreciate,” he said. “But it doesn’t come with the same support. We’re not suggesting this is a replacement for a job, but there are many important needs to be met.”

RelayRides helps people rent out their cars when they’re not using them, and was one of the earlier sharing economy technology startups. Some time after being replaced as CEO, Clark left the company early last year and is still on its board.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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