A growing wave of tech startups is boosting the UK co-op movement

Tom Lawson

An increasing number of digital and creative companies are setting up as co-operatives, boosting the UK co-ops scene

The UK co-operative economy is being boosted by a new wave of digital and creative co-ops being set up by young people.

A report released today by Co-operatives UK revealed a 28 per cent increase in the number of startup digital and arts organisations over the past year. The rise accounted for just over 10 per cent of all co-op startups over the 12 months.

We’re very proud of being a co-op and not afraid of being different to other organisations in the tech sector

Why the surge? Co-ops allow greater freedom to collaborate with other companies and offer a say in how a business is run – a particular lure for younger people – finds the 2017 Co-operative Economy report.

Earlier this year saw the formation of CoTech, a network of 25 UK digital co-ops. Those behind CoTech aim to grow the number of tech workers employed by co-ops to 100,000 by 2030.

Kayleigh Walsh is a developer for Outlandish, a London-based co-op that specialises in designing websites and apps. Outlandish is a member of the CoTech network. “Essentially we are trying to make technology more equal and use it to make the world a fairer place,” said Walsh.

We are trying to make technology more equal and use it to make the world a fairer place

“We’re trying to lead by example and collaborate by pitching for work and working together, meeting up and sharing skills. We’re very proud of being a co-op and not afraid of being different to other organisations in the tech sector.”

The UK has almost 7,000 independent co-ops employing 226,000 people, and sector turnover has increased by £700m in the last five years. Sport and social clubs, retail, and housing organisations make up the majority of co-ops; but there are now 292 digital and arts co-ops that generate a total of £27.5m annually.


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