A group of co-operators is working on launching a new website to bring together data on all UK co-operatives.
One of those behind the project is Karin Christiansen, outgoing general secretary of the Co-operative Party. Speaking at the UK Society for Co-operative Studies annual conference, she said an online database of co-operatives could help the sector’s businesses trade with each other.
“Open data could be freely used, reused and distributed by everyone,” she said.
The website, www.p6data.coop, is still being developed but once complete it hopes to include data from the International Co-operative Alliance, Co-operatives UK’s directory, Companies House, the FCA register and OpenCorporates. There will also be data on credit unions.
“The problem is, the data is highly fragmented and really out of date,” said Ms Christiansen. “And there are big gaps.
“Inter-operability is one of the biggest wins you can get out of this – the ability of diverse systems and organisations to work together. It is fundamentally linked to principle six, co-operation among co-operatives.”
Already the Co-operate App enables smartphone users to find the nearest co-op in their area, but they are unable to add information or data.
With the new website anyone would also be able to search, contribute and build on the online directory, added Ms Christiansen, who said a single directory of all co-ops would be simpler than having to look at different sites which might include different information about the same organisation.
Bob Cannell, of worker co-op Suma Wholefoods, warned that some co-ops might not be interested in sharing their data because it would take too much time.
He also suggested building a mechanism into the website’s design that would verify data.