Co-operating on Open Data

The new co-op HQ
The view of the new Co-op HQ from the 24th floor…

This week, way up on the 24th floor of the CIS Building in Manchester, we facilitated an event to look at how and why the Co-operative movement could engage with open data.

Alongside Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative News, a group of open data and co-op people gathered to hear from Chris Taggart of OpenCorporates, and then begin the discussion of how this movement could evolve.

We learnt that the Co-operative movement is vast and diverse – ranging from banking to funeral care, from software to snake catchers!  Equally, there is not *one* type of co-op. Variations such as worker, consumer, retail and volunteer co-operatives are just some – although all share the same ethos and relation to the guiding principles of mutal benefit for members and wider society.

Chris took us through some of the philosophical and practical issues around open data, summized in the classic line:

“Open data is the new democracy”

.. which certainly got people thinking.

I’ve picked up on two main themes that stood out from the workshop.  The Co-operative News have ably started to document and publish materials from the workshop – well worth a look.

1 – Open Data on Co-operatives

This was our starting point.  If co-ops were to openly publish data about their activities, what would represent their “added value” and “point of difference”.  Would this be data on membership, community activities and other measures? How would this be achieved?  What could be the “quick-win” datasets that co-ops could push out to engage people?

We discussed how an data standard for co-operatives could be one way to facilitate this – but this event was only two hours…

2 – Open Data by Co-operatives

This theme was something that struck to the heart if many it seemed.  One of the key values of the co-operative movement was knowing how to run successful businesses and organsations in a collaborative manner.  How could this be applied to open data?  Could open data projects be governed in a co-operative way?   There was some discussion around the notion of “prosumer co-operatives” in terms of data producers and consumers working in joint.  Certainly, there was an appetite for exploring this further…

What Next?

Open Data Manchester were proud to be a part of kicking off this discussion, and many thanks to all those that attended, and our collaborators at Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative News.  This October/November, the co-op world will arrive in Manchester to celebrate the end of the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives.

Please add your thoughts on how we can further stimulate the conversation in the run-up and during this event…