A co-operative art school? Flyer collage with plans of Conway Hall by Frederick Herbert Mansford, Conway Hall Humanist Library and Archives Digital Collections.

Co-operative Art Education Resources

Resources for a co-operative art school

A list of co-operatives and resources on co-ops and co-operative education in the UK, complied in conjunction with the research project A co-operative art school? See also the list of resources for alternative (art) education. If you would like to recommend a resource please use the contact form to get in touch.

Co-operative art schools

Feral Art School
2018 Hull
A co-operative art school of professional artists and educators who encourage experimentation and collaboration. Feral Art School is takes place across the city in a range of venues. They invite students from all walks of life who have a curiosity for engaging with and making art work, regardless of previous experience and skills. Their courses progress from general introductory level to more advanced levels.

Co-operatives in the arts

1991 London
An artist run co-operative founded by a group of artists in 1991. Cubitt consists of a non-profit gallery, education programme and 32 artist studios.

Footprint Workers Co-operative
2000 Leeds
A small ecologically minded co-operative printers based in Leeds. All workers are members and joint owners of the cooperative. They print books, booklets, zines, leaflets, stickers, newsletters and fliers at affordable prices and a wide range of quality.

2015 Berlin/Ireland
A music streaming service that operates as a cooperative owned by its members. It is based on the principles of fairness, transparency and artist ownership, aiming to create a sustainable and ethical alternative to the traditional music industry model. Resonate offers a streaming service where members can access a growing catalog of music from a range of independent artists and labels, and can also upload their own music to the platform. The cooperative structure of Resonate ensures that all members have an equal say in the decision-making process and share in the profits generated by the platform. Resonate’s commitment to transparency and fair compensation for artists has gained it a loyal following, the service has received positive reviews from music industry professionals and consumers. Resonate was initially set up through a crowdfunding campaign with supporters from around the world. They continue to raise funds through grants and crowdfunding via Open Collective to develop the platform.

Smart Coop
2016 Brussels
Smart is a solidarity economy cooperative for artists, creatives and freelancers with 35.000 members in 7 countries across Europe. Smart pools resources and risks to create sustainable working conditions, facilitates regular employment for people struggling with complex, short-term and changing work conditions, or  helps to restructure their self-employment in a sustainable manner. They provide administration and management services, legal advice, insurance, equipment leasing, guarantee fund and micro credits, help with grant applications, co-working spaces and studios, publications and research.

Co-operative (higher) education

Co-operative College
1919 Manchester
A charitable trust set up to deliver programmes of training and education on co-operative values, ideas and principles within co-operatives, communities and society more broadly. It also works with partners in the co-operative movement and higher education to research the historical and contemporary role of co-operation.

2012 UK
Mailing list for discussion relating to co-operative higher education and co-operative universities.

Co-operative Universities: A Bibliography
2013 Joss Winn, Social Science Centre
Articles, reports, presentations and book chapters on the topic of co-operative university, with a focus on co-operative ownership and co-operative governance of higher education institutions.

Co-operative University
2019 Co-operative College
Currently under development, the Co-operative University will offer accredited programmes in higher education to all, regardless of previous academic achievement. Students will be introduced to  skills in collaborative learning and the university will be governed by an elected board with staff and student representation.

David Cross
Artist and Reader at University of the Arts London
David Cross’ research, practice and teaching focuses on sustainable development, financial systems, fossil energy dependency, climate breakdown and the cultural transition to a post-carbon society. Cross has proposed that students and staff work together to identify and map the extra-economic value produced in the university/art school, as a prelude to producing a viable model of the university as a not-for-profit co-operative.

The Field
2014 New Cross
The Field is an independent, co-operatively run social and educational project, that is not-for-profit and run by its members. Through local political action, radical education, mutual care, solidarity, shared resources and collective service provision, The Field creates a space to explore alternatives to the inequality, competition and exploitation of capitalism.

2012 Brighton & Hove
Cooperative, community-led organisation that provides and promotes free educational events across the city. They aim to grow an alternative education system that benefits everyone, whoever they are and whatever their financial means. They offer free courses, practical workshops, introductory taster sessions, lectures, talks, film screenings, discussion and debate in a wide variety of subjects. They also offer validated, degree-level courses in philosophy and social sciences. Their aim is to turn public spaces into classrooms, enabling communities to come together to think, develop, learn,  question the world around us and explore how it could be different and better.

Journal of Co-operative Studies
1967 Manchester
A peer-reviewed international academic journal, which aims to promote knowledge, research and innovation within the co-operative sector. It publishes articles on a wide range of subjects within the fields of co-operative enterprise, organisation and management. Its primary focus is acting as a bridge between academics and practitioners in advancing knowledge and understanding of co-operation. The Journal is published by the UK Society for Co-operative Studies.

Learning Cooperative
2016 London
Offers affordable private tuition, while paying tutors from around the world a fair wage. The Learning Cooperative puts students together with teachers in Gaza, London and Pakistan in private language courses. Languages are taught in their political, historical and social context. 

Leicester Vaughan College
2017 Leicester
An independent higher education college set up as a co-operative community benefit society in response to the closure of Vaughan College. Aims to provide university-level education dedicated to the needs of part-time learners. They currently offer a non-accredited programme and are working towards offering fully-accredited degrees in various forms of counselling and in arts, humanities and social sciences. The college advocates secure working conditions and equitable pay for staff. It is structured to encourage co-operation among, and between staff, students and members of the Society in the development the College.  It operates on the principle that fair and supportive treatment of staff will also enhance the student experience.
Mondragon University
1997 Arrasate, Mondragón, Spain
A non-profit co-operative university, which belongs to the Mondragon Corporation, a federation of worker co-operatives in the Basque region of Spain. It was created by the association of three educational co-operatives and offers postgraduate courses, on-demand courses and long and short-term courses for students and workers in Engineering, Business Studies, Humanities and Education. The university involves students and staff in decision-making, including staff salaries and fees. It carries out research and it has a close association with other co-operatives where students carry out work placements, according to a practical teaching methodology called the Mendeberri Project.

Really Open University
2009-2011 Leeds
The ROU was non-hierarchical and open-access project initiated by students and staff of higher education institutions in Leeds to explore and experiment with the function of the university and its role in society. ROU did not propose a new model institution or alternative system but sought to understand the university and its role in society, explore ways and means of reclaiming pedagogical space and to facilitate plural transformations in dominant ideas about higher education. ROU hosted open discussions in reclaimed spaces and organised Re-imagine the University (24-26 Nov 2010, University of Leeds), see the review by Richard Hall. They produced the journal Re-imagine the University and published a regular newsletter the Sausage Factory. They published three reforms: Imagine the Abolition of all Fees and the Institution of a Living Wage, a Debt Jubilee for all past students, and, the Abolition of the Research Excellence Framework and the National Student Survey.

RED Learning Co-operative
2018 Oxford
A group of cooperators who conduct research and run collaborative education and training that leads to social change.

Social Science Centre (SSC) 
2011-2019 Lincoln
The SSC was an experiment in free, co-operative higher education. It was created as a critique of and an alternative to higher education in the UK.  Former members of the Centre are currently developing a Co-operative University with degree-awarding powers. The SSC offered free higher education in Lincoln and was run by its members. It was formally constituted in May 2011 with help from the local Co-operative Development Agency. There was no fee for learning or teaching, members contributed financially or with their time on a voluntary basis.

Networks, federations and support organisations

Organisations that unite, represent, advocate and campaign for the co-operative movement and/or support new and existing co-ops by providing training, advice, resources etc.

Alternative Art Guide
2017 The Hague
Online database of independent  art spaces that are often difficult to find. With over 1700 spaces worldwide it is the largest overview of non-profit, artist-run and independent art spaces. Provides insight into local conditions with articles contributed by artist-run spaces, raising questions about locality versus globalisation. Produced by The Naked, an artist-run initiative founded to promote a global view from local perspectives and show the  multiplicity of alternative or independent spaces. Supported by the Mondriaan Fund and the Municipality of The Hague.

AIM Network (Artists Initiatives’ Meetings Network)
2009 Berlin
European network of artist-run initiatives and platform for exchange, sharing of knowledge, increasing of mobility and cooperation between artist-run initiatives and to raise awareness of the artist-run sector within the professional art world and the broader public. Aims to promote the exchange of information and ideas between artist-run initiatives, to strengthen the artist-run sector and advocate for the role of artist-run initiatives. Provides a forum for artist-run initiatives to connect with each other, training, resources, grants and fellowships, and advocacy for the role of artist-run initiatives. Supported by the Nordic Culture Point/Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme.

2021 USA
A network that supports artists and creatives who are involved in systems-change and innovating models for self-determination and community wealth within and the solidarity economy movement in the United States. Art.coop published a report about the ways that arts and culture grantmakers can engage in systems-change, with many resources in the solidarity economy ecosystem. They produced Move the Money, a discussion series about the solidarity economy and a podcast about the artists and culture workers who are building the solidarity economy in their communities. They also offer free online courses via Creative Study. Art.coop is a fiscally sponsored project of Open Collective Foundation. Support comes from individual contributors and foundations in the US.

Artist-Run Alliance (ARA)
1999 Tel Aviv
Free non-profit, artist-led global network of independent artist-run initiatives (artist co-operatives, independent galleries and art spaces). With a membership of over 200 artist-run initiatives from around the world, the platform promotes direct communication between artists, artist-run groups and alternative art lovers. The website provides a directory, blog, resource library and forum for artist-run initiatives to connect with each other, find and share open calls, opportunities and public events. ARA also offers mentoring and co-founded a residency program in Berlin. Advocates for the role of artist-run initiatives in the cultural landscape, provides training and resources, and promotes the work of artist-run initiatives. Organised by the Alfred Institute for Art and Culture.

Barefoot Co-op Development Programme
2017 UK
Despite growing interest and investment into worker and community ownership there’s still a significant shortfall of advisors in the sector. barefoot provides existing practitioners with specialist training to gain skills, knowledge and confidence to work as advisors to co-operative and community businesses in the UK.

Catalyst Collective
1992 UK
Worker’s coop that supports other coops and collectives, helping people take control of their housing and work through common ownership and collective decision making. They offer free help and advice for housing and worker co-ops, help coops with accounts and book-keeping, train and facilitate coops and groups doing their own accounts, book-keeping and administration, support co-operative businesses, offer advice for groups that want to set up housing co-ops and a cheap registration service.

Co-operatives UK
1869 Manchester
The trade body and network for co-operatives in Britain. Originally called the Co-operative Central Board and then the Co-operative Union, Co-ops UK is a co-operative federation that represents co-operative enterprises in the UK. It delivers training for cooperatives and The Hive, a support programme for co-operatives. The website provides information and online resources, including how to start a coop (with tools for planning, selecting a legal structure and registering your coop), model governing documents, dealing with conflict, a podcast &c.

The Hive
2016 Co-operatives UK
Support programme for co-operatives delivered by Co-operatives UK. It offers free introductory workshops for people thinking about setting up a coop, supports existing coops and provides bespoke training and mentoring for groups that want to set-up a co‑operative or convert a business into co-operative or community ownership. The website has online resources and a forum.

International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
1895 Brussels
a non-governmental co-operative federation, which unites, represents and serves cooperatives and the co-operative movement worldwide. ICA maintains the internationally recognised definition of a co-operative in the Statement on the Co-operative Identity. The ICA represents 313 co-operative federations and organisations and 1,2 billion cooperative members in 109 countries.

Platform Cooperativism Consortium
2016 New York
A hub that helps you start, grow, or convert to platform co-ops. A platform is an online application or website used by individuals or groups to connect to one another or to organize services. Platform cooperatives are an alternative to venture capital-funded and centralized platforms, putting stakeholders before shareholders. The website includes resources such a library, a directory and digital tools. The Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy (ICDE) based at The New School is the research arm of the Platform Cooperativism Consortium. Activities of the ICDE include, publishing, a Research Fellowship Program and annual conferences.

Radical Routes
1992 Leeds
Radical Routes is a federation of radical co-ops that are committed to working for positive social change. The network is made up mainly of housing co-ops, workers’ co-ops and social centres. Radical Routes support their member co-ops with a mutual aid structure, training workshops, practical support and loan finance via their ethical investment arm Rootstock. They organise four national gatherings per year, these are open to the public and host meetings, socials and a programme of introductory workshops for new members. They also publish guides and resources for co-operatives.

Seeds for Change
2000 Lancaster
A workers’ co-op of campaigners offering training, meeting facilitation and resources for groups and organisations that are confronting injustice and building sustainable alternatives. They offer training and meeting facilitation, and an extensive list of publications and online resources on collective organising, consensus decision making, developing strategies, campaign and action skills, setting up groups and co-ops, co-operative governance and training for trainers.

2020 England
A campaigning organisation with representatives from the worker co-operative and trade union movements, working to create decent work through the creation of fully unionised worker co-ops. The union and coop movements have common roots dating back to the creation of the Grand Consolidated Trade Union in 1834 and the Rochdale Pioneers of 1844, and many radical activists of the time were engaged in both struggles. In 2020 the organisation launched with A Manifesto for Decent Work and organised the Decent Work & Democracy Conference in 2022.

2023 UK
Newly formed federation of worker cooperatives that aims to provide resources, education, training and networking opportunities to existing and potential worker co-ops. Their vision is a world where everyone has access to rewarding, meaningful and sustainable work, made possible by an interconnected and highly inclusive worker cooperative movement.  Their purpose is to motivate, educate and organise people to start, strengthen and grow great worker co-ops.  To find out more and get involved join the Workers.coop forum.

Guides, information, communities & tools

Alternative Education Counter-Cartography
2019 Gary Saunders, Social Science Centre
A counter-cartography to mainstream higher education. Part of a militant-research project that attempts to link groups that are thinking critically about higher education provision and attempting to offer alternative models. You can add to and amend the map as necessary (sign in to Google Maps required).

Discover co‑ops
2020 Co-operatives UK
Recordings of free webinars that introduce the co-op business model, for people who are looking to challenge the status quo and find fairer, more equitable ways of working. The webinar titled Co-ops: empowering arts and culture introduces co-ops within the arts and culture industries, indicating how co-ops can empower and support artists and organisations. Contributors share their experiences and highlight the importance of collaboration, community involvement and sustainable business practices for the success of co-operatives in the arts, emphasising the need for more support and resources to help artists and cultural organisations establish successful co-ops.

2015 Amsterdam

Platform that provides online services based on principles of freedom, privacy, federation and decentralization. They provide free and secure email accounts, Cloud storage powered by Nextcloud, mailing list powered by Discourse, XMPP instant messaging  and tools for collaborative work such as Disroot pads powered by Etherpad.

2012 Wellington
Free open-source web forum that facilitates collaborative decision-making using discussion threads, proposals, polls and other consensus gathering tools. Loomio emerged from the Occupy movement in New Zealand, it is a workers’ coop and part of the Enspiral network of social enterprises. Groups can be public or private, Worker Co-operatives is an example of a public group. Members can start discussions on specific topics, post comments and create proposals. Proposals generate feedback and additional discussions. Members can agree, disagree, abstain, or block a proposal and they can adapt these tools to their own decision-making process. See the Loomio Co-op Handbook for  documentation on how the Loomio co-op functions.

2022 New York
A release club where groups of people with similar interests release, collaborate and support each other’s work. By becoming a metalabel, a group can quickly create a new shared identity, define their partnership, begin to drop releases and build a shared treasury around their work together. A metalabel helps groups of people pool their skills, audiences and resources, and incentivises collaboration between creators in support of a larger creative vision or purpose. Metalabels can be used to create music, art, writing, film, to promote social justice causes, environmentalism, economic equality, releases can be free free or paid, online or IRL, digital, physical or ephemeral. Financial proceeds are split between creators and the metalabel treasury in transparent terms.  The website includes articles, interviews, resources, and a call to action for individuals to establish their own metalabels.

Open Organisations Project
2005 Indymedia UK London Working Group
A framework for a functional organizational structure that people can choose to adopt when working together. It proposes solutions to help set up and maintain transparent, accountable and  participative communities. The project emerged as a result of widespread dissatisfaction with the formal and informal power structures in governments, corporations and voluntary or activist groups. Informal structures are hidden and difficult to challenge, identify and discuss. This is a major cause of conflict in activist and volunteer groups, which takes up a lot of time and energy, and has a demoralising effect on individual groups and on the movements they are involved in.

2010 Zurich
Openki.net is an interactive web-platform that facilitates the organization of peer-to-peer courses for barrier-free access to education for everyone. Initiated by activists from Autonomous School Zurich in 2010, it is part of an evolving, co-created toolbox for self-organized education and self-organization. The platform is here.

P2P Foundation
2005 Amsterdam
A global network of researchers, activists and practitioners who work to promote the principles of peer-to-peer (P2P) collaboration, open knowledge sharing and commons-based production. The foundation hosts conferences and events, produces publications and engages in advocacy and activism aimed at advancing the P2P agenda. The P2PFoundation Wiki contains a wealth of resources on topics such as open source software, alternative currencies, digital commons and cooperative economics, it is also a space where members collaborate and share information on P2P theory, practice and activism. The vision of P2P Foundation is to create a society based on P2P values such as mutual aid, social solidarity, and decentralized decision-making. The foundation believes that P2P collaboration has the potential to create a more equitable, sustainable, and democratic society, and is committed to working towards this goal through research, education, and advocacy.

Post-Individualism, Metalabels and Web 3 with Yancey Strickler
2022 Interdependence.fm
Yancey Stickler discusses his idea of Post-Individualism, his new project Metalabel as well as his prior work founding Kickstarter, its parallels to web 3 and new proposals to fund artistic scenes.

Study Center for Group Work
2017 Caroline Woolard, Stamatina Gregory, Cooper Union, Spaceworks
An online resource and an network of artists who meet to share methods of collaboration with one another. The center hosts an online library of collaborative methods with lesson plans, readings and objects that have been recommended by artists. It also organises exhibitions and gatherings for artists to share resources and accessible public training in methods of listening, attention and collaboration. The center aims to cultivate a network of visual artists who are committed to group work through daily practice. It was founded by Caroline Woolard in 2013 in New York.

True Currency: About Feminist Economics
2020 Alternative School of Economics
A six-part podcast hosted by Amy Feneck and Ruth Beale (The Alternative School of Economics), in collaboration with Lucia Scazzocchio (Social Broadcasts). Presents testimonials from academic researchers, policy experts, community leaders and activists; and explores financial inequality, feminism, intersectionality, labour exploitation, unpaid work, care, unionisation and reproductive labour.

2019 Evening Class
A collection of resources on worker coops, an are.na resource sharing and bookmarking channel created by Evening Class.

Working with the edges
2019 The Other MA (TOMA) Southend-on-Sea
Equally excited + worried by the conversations taking place with visitors to the programme about the future of education, specifically art education, TOMA founder + artist Emma Edmondson and Arcade + Campfa director Clare Charles host a series of conversations, essays + sound art shorts. To learn more about practitioners’ creative education journeys, the art world, criticism and ask what makes a contemporary artist? They speak to artists, critics, curators, arts policy makers, admin assistants, artist-led communities, politicians and everyone and anyone who makes up the art world society we live in and ask – – – > in a time of austerity + costly education fees are we all fucked? Or can we all work together to make things better? We are better if we work together, even if it is around the edges. All podcast imagery by Emma Mills.