What is a co-op?

We Are Open is a co-operative. What does that mean?

According to the International Co-operative Alliance:

A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.

Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Wikipedia says:

A cooperative (also known as co-operative, co-op or coop) is an autonomous association of people united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled business.Cooperatives include non-profit community organizations and businesses that are owned and managed by the people who use their services (a consumer cooperative); by the people who work there (a worker cooperative); by the people who live there (a housing cooperative); hybrids such as worker cooperatives that are also consumer cooperatives or credit unions; multi-stakeholder cooperatives such as those that bring together civil society and local actors to deliver community needs; and second and third tier cooperatives whose members are other cooperatives. It was estimated that in 2012 approximately one billion people were members of at least one cooperative and that the turnover of the largest three hundred cooperatives in the world reached $2.2 trillion – which, if they were to be a country, it would make them the seventh largest.

Co-operatives adhere to the seven international principles of co-operation, outlined below.

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1. Voluntary and Open Membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

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2. Democratic Member Control

Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.

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3. Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

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4. Autonomy and Independence

Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.

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5. Education, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

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6. Co-operation among Co-operatives

Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

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7. Concern for Community

Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

In accordance with Principle 6, we are working in solidarity with:

Educators Co-op

Educators Co-op, based in California, are innovative thought partners and digital badging experts.


Co-operative Technologists

We are one of over 25 technology-focused co-operatives who are part of a new UK-based network known as Co-operative Technologists.

Ready to go open?

Get in touch and let's see how we can help each other out.



We are nimble thinkers.

Our acrobatic thought processes are curious, bold, experimental. We improvise a lot, but are discipled in that improvisation.

We are connected.

We play with the new and shiny tools, but we pick up the right tool for the job. We are so inclusive that we’re eclectic.

We are a collective.

Our solidarity gives us power. We believe in surplus, not profit and work as a collective, not as individuals.

We are professional.

We are constantly learning and take a considered approach to everything we do. We strive to illuminate along the way, giving our clients a competitive edge in the world of social good.

We are participants.

We invite collaboration and aim to be co-operative despite challenges that come up along the way. We share wildly to invite brilliant people to share their ideas and feedback on the work we’re doing.