The co-operative economy – in communities and now on open data 

Co-operatives Fortnight is underway. This is the annual sector campaign to promote awareness of co-operative enterprise. It closes on July 4th, which is the United Nations International Co-operatives Day.

Today, I am up early as we are releasing The Co-operative Economy 2015, our annual sector data.

Overall, there are now 6,796 individual co-operatives across the UK covering every industry, from retail giants and agricultural heavyweights through to community owned pubs, football clubs and credit unions. 

The fastest growth areas are agriculture, energy and social care, where co-operative innovations offer a powerful economic advantage. 

The sector as whole turned over £37 billion last year, a growth of 15 percent since 2010. The figure is a 2.8 percent decline on last year’s £38 billion, a dip accounted for by the shifts in trading and business lines at The Co-operative Group, after its rescue phase last year. The data is drawn from published accounts, so exactly covers that period.

The underlying sector performance is a strong one, with, as ever, some heartwarming stories of new co-operatives emerging at the grass-roots level.

We are publishing the report and summary on a refreshed Co-ops UK website and releasing the figures together with a beta explorer tool on an ‘open data’ basis, which allows anyone to look through the numbers and draw their own analysis from it. You are welcome to have a go, and we welcome your feedback.

An old idea now on its way back…an economy for the common good

The best ideas are sometimes the oldest ones. They just take their time to mature. The concept of the common good, or the common weal in traditional parlance, is as old as the hills, as British as driving rain. And in economics, it is making a come back.

Today an extraordinary best-seller across continental Europe is published in English by Zed Books. ‘Change Everything: creating an economy for the common good’ written by Christian Felber has helped to encourage a rapidly spreading and international grass-roots movement, organized around the idea of returning business and economic life to the measuring stick of common good. 

I have posted a longer blog this week on the patient emergence of ideas around an economy for the common good on the site of COVI, dubbed the first visual think tank.