Tools and resources for cooperatives

I found this to be an awesome repository of useful info, and thought about sharing it here…

This page is a collection of resources that may be of use to those starting, growing and organising a co-operative. It was initiated by Platform 6 - an on-line community of co-operatives and co-operators.

If you have more to add, or notice any broken links, please edit this page, add a comment or email

Useful resource collections

  • Resources for decentralised organising - a collection of international resources curated by Richard Bartlett of Loomio and The Hum. Highly recommended.
  • Seeds for Change Resources - a comprehensive suite of anti-copyright guides, templates, model governing docs, including non-English translations. Aimed at co-operators and activists - recommended.
  • Principle 5 - Sheffield based library of books, publications, archival materials and resources relating to co-operatives.
  • CAN policies - A comprehensive set of working policies with a co-operative focus.
  • Co-operative Educators Network Library - A compendium of online resource libraries from cooperative organizations across North America and Puerto Rico
  • Open source coop-made software repositories

UK Co-operative support programmes

Note: Some of these programmes may have a wider social enterprise or community business focus that may exclude some co-operatives.

The Hive

Co-operative Development support for start-up and existing co-ops. Resources, advisors and mentors provided. Funded by Co-operative Bank and administered by Co-opeatives UK.

Community Shares Booster Programme

Power to Change funded programme to support community share offers with development grants and matched investment.

Bright Ideas Fund

The Bright Ideas Fund supports new community business ideas through the start-up and planning stages with tailored business support, to the implementation stage with grants of up to £15,000.

UK Co-operative development bodies

See also Co-operatives UK’s list of Co-operative Development Bodies here

Co-op Culture

UK wide consortium of co-operative and community advisors, entrepreneurs and enterprises. Our members and associates have a vast and varied experience of supporting co-operative, community and social enterprise to start and grow. Happy to chat to anyone about their co-op project.

Co-operative Alternatives

Northern Ireland’s leading co-operative development body.

Co-operative Assistance Network Limited

A workers co-operative of co-operative development workers. Delivering training, consultancy and business services to UK co-ops and social enterprises since 1989.

Somerset Co-operative Services CIC

A service users co-operative delivering consultancy, support, training and incubation for co-operative social enterprises. Delivery mostly in Somerset and the south west, but some specialist services (such as registrations using the Somerset Rules) are available across the UK.

US Cooperative Resources

Democracy Collaborative

Through our cutting edge research and our many diverse programs, The Democracy Collaborative works to carry out a vision of a new economic system where shared ownership and control creates more equitable and inclusive outcomes, fosters ecological sustainability, and promotes flourishing democratic and community life.

Democracy At Work Institute

Democracy at Work is a non-profit that advocates for worker cooperatives and democratic workplaces as a key path to a stronger, democratic economic system. Based on the book Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism by Richard D. Wolff, we envision a future where workers at every level of their offices, stores, and factories have equal voices in the direction of their enterprise and its impact within their community and society at large.

Next System Project

The Next System Project is an initiative of The Democracy Collaborative aimed at bold thinking and action to address the systemic challenges the United States faces now and in coming decades. Deep crises of economic inequality, racial injustice and climate change—to name but three—are upon us, and systemic problems require systemic solutions. Working with a broad group of researchers, theorists and activists, we are using the best research, understanding and strategic thinking, on the one hand, and on-the-ground organizing and development experience, on the other, to promote visions, models and pathways that point to a “next system” radically different in fundamental ways from the failed systems of the past and present and capable of delivering superior social, economic and ecological outcomes.

Fifty by Fifty Project

The 50 by 50 project is working to transform a quarter of the US economy into worker-ownership. Their goal is to create 50 million employee-owners by 2050.

International co-operative development bodies

Germany - AGBeratung

An amalgamation of activists from various self-organized, solidary and emancipatory projects and collectives offers support.

Germany - Genossenschaftverband

Information for founders of German co-operatives

Germany - Mietshäuser Syndikat

A good resource for those wanting to set up Housing Co-op style structures in Germany - work in a similar way to Radical Routes, but more hands on (eg golden shares to prevent carpet-bagging).

Germany - Netzwerk Selbsthilfe

Not co-op specific, giving small grants and advice to all social activist groups. They provide development advice (legal structures, funding, project planning):

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Co-op Start-up guides

Simply Start-up

A booklet style guide to the process of starting a co-operative or community enterprise. This guide was produced as part of the Big Lottery Funded Making Local Food Work programme and so uses community food growing case studies to illustrate the stages in a typical start-up process.
34 pages. Published 2011.

Social Business Wales

This site is suitable for those considering starting up or operating a social business. Social businesses include social enterprises, co-operatives, mutuals and employee owned businesses.

Transition Enterprise Handbook (PDF download)

A guide to the start-up process for a Transition Enterprise (even if they don’t wish to use the label) or anyone involved in supporting them.

Co-op Legal and organisational structures

Simply Legal

All you need to know about legal forms and organisational types For UK co-operatives and community owned enterprises.
Also covers charitable status. Long considered the go to reference.
93 pages. 3rd edition published 2017.
Supplements available for Scottish and Northern Irish Charities.

The Do-ocracy Handbook: organisational types and legal structures

UK and co-operative focussed guide to the various options avaialble for structuring and running any project or enterprise.


FairShares is a brand and development model for self-governing social enterprises operating under Association, Co-operative and Company Law. It offers a unique multi-stakeholder approach through its integration of entrepreneurs, producers, consumers and investors, and its advocacy of Creative Commons to manage members’ intellectual property.

FairShares Institute courses

Introduction course provides an opportunity to apply FairShares model. In addition to exploring values and principles, key questions, approaches to learning (and decision-making), students will use a range of FairShares auditing and diagnostic tools to gather information needed to develop a plan for a FairShares enterprise. Students will learn how to use a FairShares Canvass to prepare for the creation of a new social enterprise and generate a draft constitution for a new FairShares cooperative.

FairShares Rules Generator

Contains FairShares ‘rules generators’ that enable you to generate rules for your enterprise. You can use these to form, register and incorporate FairShares companies, societies, associations and partnerships.

Co-op Governance and Decision-making

Simply Governance

A comprehensive guide to understanding the systems and processes concerned with the running of a sustainable community enterprise. This guide was produced as part of the Big Lottery Funded Making Local Food Work programme and so uses community food growing case studies to illustrate governance issues.
Produced in 2011, a significant amount of the legislation referred to has changed, but much of the content is still valid.
112 pages.

From Conflict to Co-operation

An excellent, illustrated 5 booklet series authored by Kate Whittle of Co-operantics as part of the Big Lottery funded Making Local Food Work programme. Designed to help organisations deal with conflict when it arises and also avoid unnecessary conflict. Downloadable as PDFs from the link above.

  • Conflict - where it comes from and how to deal with it
  • Communication skills
  • Meetings and decision-making
  • Organisational growth and development
  • Role and responsibilities of the committee

The From Conflict to Co-operation series is also now available in Korean here. Thanks to the iCOOP Co-operative Federation of Korea who organised the translation.

Consensus Decision Making

Web page and guide created by Seeds for Change available in hard copy or PDF.


Loomio is decision-making software designed to assist groups with the collaborative decision-making process. It is a free software web application, developed by a worker cooperative.

Sociocracy for All

Resources, training and community around sociocracy (or dynamic governance). Particular interest in co-operatives in the UK at the moment.

Additional VSM/Sociocracy resources

Jon Walker - comment in Worker Co-op Loomio Group - comparing and contrasting Viable Systems Model and Sociocracy

Practical guide to Sociocracy 3.0 a downloadable resource

Round Sky Solutions

Round Sky is a worker-owned cooperative offering innovative democratic management and cooperative leadership tools, resources, and training for cooperators, their teams, and other like-minded organizations. Access the Cooperative Decision-Making Toolkit offering a model of consent-based decision-making.

Co-op Finance

Finance Toolkit

Written in partnership between Co-operatives UK and Third Sector Accountancy, this toolkit is a FREE UK resource, covering accounting, VAT, financial reporting requirements, corporation tax, mutual trading status and more.

Simply Finance

A comprehensive guide to the different options for financing a community enterprise. Contains some model documents around loans and shares.
Published 2011. 94 pages.

Financial Literacy for Co-operatives

PDF download
This Seeds for Change guide is aimed at anyone who is involved in co-ops – from workers’ co-ops, housing co-ops to social centres. The aim is to demystify the world of finance to enable all co-op members to fully participate in financial decision-making.

Community Shares Handbook

The definitive guide for community shares - the issue of share capital by Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies - covering all the relevant legal requirements and voluntary good practice standards for share offers. This Handbook sets out guidance for societies and practitioners who provide advice on community shares, a term used to describe the withdrawable share capital of co-operative and community benefit societies.
Regularly updated. 117 Pages
Available as a website and PDF download.


Socially responsible ethical investment in radical co-operatives (member coops of Radical Routes) using co-op investor shares.


Permanent common fund, paid for by the voluntary subscriptions of worker cooperative members, workers’ cooperatives, individuals and organisations that support worker cooperatives, industrial democracy and collective ownership.

Co-operative and Community Finance

Co-operatively owned lender to, and investor in, the co-operative and social enterprise sector. Provides accessible finance to co-ops and other social enterprise.

Co-op Loan Fund

Unsecured loans to UK co-ops between £10K and £85K.

Big Society Capital - Get SITR

Practical advice and resources on using Social Investment Tax Relief which can be used to incentivise investment in some co-operatives.

Raising Finance for your Enterprise

An information booklet for co-operatives and social enterprises in the UK by Co-operative Assistance Network Limited

Co-ops and the law

Handbook of Co-operative and Community Benefit Society Law

Published by Co-operatives UK in association with Jordan Publishing Ltd. The definitive work on the law relating to Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies. 2nd edition updated to cover the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014.
Editor Ian Snaith.
Published 2014.
382 pages.
Chapter 1 available as download from Ian Snaith’s blog by clicking on heading above.

Trading platforms


An open source platform to build marketplaces that lets your users rent or sell goods, spaces or services online.

Fairmondo UK

Ethical trading platform owned by its sellers and buyers.

The Open Credit Network

A UK Mutual Credit Network that provides a mechanism for businesses to trade without money, via a credit clearing system.

Co-op development training

Towards Co-operative CommonWealth: Transition in a Perilous Century

Towards Co-operative Commonwealth is a free, massive, open, online course offered by Synergia Institute with support from Athabasca University that sets out what effective systems change means, and the most promising ways to secure our communities’ basic needs in increasingly difficult times. It is a master class in movement building for a new model of political economy that is sustainable, democratic, socially just and based on the principles of co-operation and the common good. It is suitable for newcomers to social change work as well as veteran activists, practitioners, policy-makers, students, and researchers.

Sector specific co-op resources

Platform Co-operatives

Platform co-operatives - solving the capital conundrum

NESTA report, jointly published with Co-operatives UK, looks at what platform co-operatives are, why we need them, and what is needed for them to grow and flourish in the future.

Unfound Accelerator

UnFound is for tech founders and start-ups looking for a different way to set-up and run platform businesses. It brings together platforms that would like to go about their business in a more collaborative and inclusive way.

Co-operative Pubs - Plunkett Foundation

Note: Plunkett Foundation have now put their pub resources behind a paywall - you need to become a member. They are also involved in the More than a Pub support programme.

Community owned shops - Plunkett Foundation

Worker Co-operatives

How to set up a Workers’ Co-op - Radical Routes

Democratic Jobs - Post and find jobs in worker co-operatives globally

How to set up a Grocery Co-operative - Unicorn Grocery

How to set up a Housing Co-op - Radical Routes

How to set up a Social Centre - Radical Routes

Community Homes Partnership website

Community-led housing toolkit - HACT

Food Co-op Toolkit - Sustain

UK Co-operative federations and consortia

Co-operatives (and others) coming together to give a voice, provide support, advice and other services to their member organisations.

Co-operative online groups

Co-operative, Commoning and Solidarity Economy Facebook Groups

Co-operative, Commoning and Solidarity Economy Subreddits

Email discussion lists

On-line discussion forums

  • Cooperative Technologists Community “A network of technology focused digital cooperatives, CoTech, who are building a tech industry that’s better for its workers and customers through co-operation, democracy and worker ownership.”
  • Platform 6 Development Co-operative A public Loomio group to facilitate co-operative development advice, support, funding, delivery, market-making and education, primarily in the UK.
  • UK Co-operative Development Forum Loomio A Loomio group for UK Co-operative Development community of practice. Membership is open to any individual or organisation involved in promoting, supporting or delivering co-operative development.
  • Worker Co-operatives Loomio An open Loomio for members of workers’ co-operatives and supporters of worker co-operation
  • PATIO a forum where ICA members can go to get advice on different IT products, services and service providers and where IT professionals from coops or who serve coops can work together, learn from each other and recommend products and services to help members. The IT Network will not be a place to discuss the different political aspects of platform coops. It is a practical network.

Chat rooms

  • Cooperative Empowerment Discord Group Chat group for everything cooperative related.
  • Comrade Coop Discord Group Comrade coop is not a corporate structure. We are an autonomous digital cooperative, managed through members’ democratic consensus. Utilizing blockchain we collaborate remotely, manage agreements, fund each other ideas and share the profits of our labour. All of which as we see fair.
  • Althea Network Discord Group Chat group for a US cooperative that enables automatically competitive internet access by empowering anyone to become an ISP.
  • Legderback Research Cooperative Discord Group Chat group for Ledgerback Research Cooperative, an Independent Research and Education Center for the advanced study of decentralized and open alternatives, with an emphasis on technology, governance, economics, and sustainability.

This is an excellent resource, thank you @ProfETH!