#Opencoop conference: Mapping the co-op and solidarity economy

Cooperatives Europe, Open Co-op, Digital Life Collective and the Solidarity Economy Association all discussed their projects

Organisations from across the co-operative movement are exploring how to connect the sector by creating a common comprehensive directory.

Some of the latest projects were presented at the Open 2018: Platform Co-operatives conference in London on 27 July.

One new initiative comes from Cooperatives Europe, the regional office of the International Co-operative Alliance, which represents 180,000 co-ops. Project officer Louis Cousin talked about the Means4End project, which aims to build a map of platform co-operatives in Europe.

The map, which would act as a one-stop source to platform goods and services in Europe, needs funding of €1m, which Cooperatives Europe has yet to secure.

“We are entering an era of data,” he said. “We want to use the movement of open data to provide digital services that would make it useful for the organisations and the co-ops to constantly feed data.”

One co-op is already bringing together the sector by mapping tech organisations. Member-owned and run, the Digital Life Collective researches, develops, funds and supports Tech We Trust: technologies that prioritise autonomy, privacy and dignity.

Co-founder Laura James said the co-op is currently developing multiple maps of decentralised tech and technology organisations that can be trusted.

“We think maps are useful when decentralised in their curation, we want to represent the richness of organisations,” she added.

Another project comes from the Solidarity Economy Association, which is looking to map solidarity economy initiatives and projects. Its chair, Colm Massey, said the map shows local organisations as well as national ones.

Getting access to information about local solidarity economy organisations can be difficult, he said, adding that the association was looking to form a steering group to lead the project. Those interested in being part of the steering group can write to Mr Massey at [email protected].

Dr Rory Ridley-Duff, professor of Co-operative Social Entrepreneurship at Sheffield Business School, highlighted the difficulties faced when trying to map similar organisations, particularly around agreeing an ontological definition across languages and cultures.

Mapping is also a core part of Open Co-op’s mission. It wants to build a comprehensive directory and map of all organisations within the co-operative, collaborative and solidarity economies. Co-founder Oliver Sylvester-Bradley said that, while trying to map individuals is hard due to GDPR legislation, but mapping organisations is not.

“This is going to be achieved by creating a shared scheme and we all agree what to publish on it,” he said.

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