Last week was an exciting and unusual week for Outlandish. Ten of us were out of the office for the inaugural Cooperative Technologists annual retreat. CoTech, as it’s known for short, is a collaborative network of tech co-ops in the UK. It is also the new name for the brainchild/beast formally known as the Megazord (more info on the inception of the tech Megazord here).


Now take it from me, I’ve been to a conference or two in my time, and this event really was up there. Perhaps it was because we were all co-ops? Perhaps it was because it was the first time we’d done it? Perhaps it was because everyone there was super lovely and committed? (This was definitely the case). Whatever it was, it worked.

As co-ops we abide by the 7 Cooperative Principles. I won’t go into all of them here, but the two that we lived out at the retreat were:

5. Education, Training and Information

6. Co-operation among Co-operatives

There were long discussions deep into the night about soul-searching topics like pay, fairness, and how to deal with conflict at work. All things that matter enormously to co-ops who are socially orientated both in terms of clients and workers.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed was the open and practical skill sharing that went on among co-ops, masterfully facilitated by Seeds for Change. All of the co-ops at the retreat were viable businesses, and many of us face similar challenges. Some of these challenges are particular to us as co-ops, while others are challenges faced by all organisations, whatever their constitution.

We had sessions on:

  • Pitching
  • Remote and flexible working
  • Tech for good
  • Operational management, structures and processes
  • Useful tech tools for invoicing, scheduling and task management
  • The nature and mode of production of free software

And these are just some of the skills sharing sessions! We did a whole heap more on what the name of our network should be, planning the next retreat, how we can work together, what skills there are within the network, and how to understand power and privilege at work (salient for a group of mostly white, middle class men!)

A week on from the retreat, Cooperative Technologists is a live-and-kicking network with over 30 tech co-ops in the UK. We have our own wiki, our own (interim) logo, and a load of new opportunities to work together and be better companies.

From all of Outlandish, thank you to everyone who came and made it such a special week – we look forward to seeing you again soon. And for everyone else – watch this space. Tech co-ops are where its at!