Opening co-operative data

Co-operatives strive for openness and transparency; and compared to their corporate counterparts the Movement now has an opportunity to take a major step ahead.

Co-operatives strive for openness and transparency; and compared to their corporate counterparts the Movement now has an opportunity to take a major step ahead.

Today Co-operative News launches its ‘I’m Open’ blog, which looks at how co-operatives can be more transparent with its data online. ‘Open data’ does sound a little daunting, if not boring(!), but this blog will open the door to what is possible and why it’s important for everyone from membership to finance to boards.

Governments across the world are being encouraged to open up their data to be more transparent with constituents, it’s now time that this crosses over to real business — and as democratic organisations this is perfect for our movement.

On this initiative we’re also working with one of Open Data Manchester’s founders Steven Flower, who has been involved in opening data for many institutions, including the World Bank. Co-operatives UK as the trade organisation for the UK movement carries out the biggest data project of co-operatives through its annual co-operative economy report.

So, what actually does ‘open data’ mean? There’s more in this blog post that goes into the mechanics of open data, but for co-operatives it can mean reporting its financial data, membership data and everything else that makes a co-operative unique, while sticking to a rigorous framework.

And that framework, an open data standard, is important so the information is all the same and can be used seamlessly used in a variety of ways.

It’s important to think about what information should be reported by co-operatives; and to figure out what data is important. And over the coming months, there will be opportunities for co-operatives to come together to discuss how the movement should tackle opening and sharing data.

As advocates for open data, we think co-operatives should make data easily available in an open standard, which may allow anyone in two clicks to find out how much money is donated to their community through co-operatives; or how many members are in their area; and maybe eventually how many members of co-operatives are across the world.

This information can be used by developers to visualise this data, whether this is a map on a mobile phone or a statistical overview of community giving versus private companies.

And we have an example here of open data in action. In this proof-of-concept we have selected some of the UK’s top co-operatives to show how open data might link with a website such as Co-operative News.

We have brought together data from a variety of partners including OpenCorporates, Co-operatives UK and OpenStreetMap, which has been mashed together with our articles on those co-operatives.

It’s an aim to make the reporting of data simple (something that fits into your workflow); to make it useful for our members and other stakeholders; to allow developers, designers, statisticians, researchers, historians to create special tools, information websites or reports; and most importantly of all to show the co-operative difference. Our difference is there, we just need to get it out there for the world to see.

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