A conference session on data highlighted the opportunities it offers to co-ops and their members – and the ethical issues that come with it.
Doris Albisser, vice president of MIDATA.coop, said her organisation offers a citizen-owned, non-profit, open-source, secure platform where health data can be used for research.
She stressed: "We don't allow data used for research to be sold. The long-term goal is to use data to personalise medicine."
Jimmy Lin, from Schools First Credit Union in the USA, said it was vital to ensure the latest safeguards were in place. "We like to say we treat the members' data like we treat the members themselves."
Data has huge implications in agriculture, where it can help producers get the best price and crop yields.
Andrew Crane, CEO of Australia's grain co-op CBH, said there were issues of who owns data, with the makers of hi-tech harvesting equipment claiming ownership of the information it gathers. "We say it's the farmers who own the data," he added.
Meanwhile, Brazil has seen the formation of Moeda, the world's first co-operative cryptobank, which uses blockchain to help people access finance.
CEO Taynaah Reis said: "It's important we work with the person providing data to know their needs, and follow them, help them to grow.
“By bringing people together in co-op system where they feel safe to share information and receive guidance, they can learn to make profit with a purpose."