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The Secret is Out

21st March 2020 · 12:00pm - 5:00pm

In person | Virtual event

 The Secret is Out

An exhibition by current and former members of alternative art schools, peer-support groups and collectives that addresses co-operation and collaboration, collective action and decision-making, group dynamics and self-organisation, alternative economies and the commons, social change and the undercommons, solidarity and mutual aid.


Runs: 22 March25 April 2020, 10am-5pm

This exhibition is FREE and does not require booking. However, free tickets must be booked to attend the preview or the closing event. 

Preview: Saturday, 21 March 2020, 12-7pm • Get tickets here.
Closing event: Saturday, 25 April 2020, 6-9pm • Get tickets here.


The Secret is Out:

…it is unrestrained CO-OPERATION, on the part of ALL the members, for EVERY purpose of social life

Thus was the co-operative movement proclaimed in 1821 by its founder Robert Owen in the first issue of The Economist. In the next ten years it spread throughout the land and after various setbacks eventually took root and evolved into the modern cooperative movement, based on the same principles originally set out in 1844 by the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers.


George Holyoake, a follower of Robert Owen who chronicled and popularised the movement, points out in History of Co-operation (1875), that in those early days the term Co-operation was used in the sense of Communism, “denoting a general arrangement of society for the mutual benefit all of concerned in sustaining it. Later, the term Co-operation came to be restricted to the humbler operations of buying and selling provisions. From implying concert of life in community it sank into meaning concert in shopkeeping” (p.68).


Today a co-operative is defined as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise”. Co-operatives are enterprises that are owned and run by their workers and stakeholders.


The word comes from the Latin co-operare, the root noun opera means work, aid, interest and support. Cooperation is the action or process of working together to the same end; to endeavour for a common purpose. Holyoake acknowledges that although there is evidence of this common endeavour throughout human history, “of two or more persons uniting to attain an end which each was unable to effect singly”, he also points out that “the benefit, however, always accruing to the stronger”. Contrary to this tendency, Holyoake saw in the Co-operation of the 19th century a movement that “begins in mutual help, with a view to end in a common competence… intending that all its members shall mutual and proportionately share the benefits secured” (pp. 2-3).


Although we can hardly support the idea of an essential human nature, whether selfish and competitive or altruistic and cooperative, it is nevertheless difficult to ignore that language would not have been possible or even necessary without cooperation. Is this sufficient evidence that humans are inherently social, cooperative animals? But equally, cooperation is not possible without communication. Is it therefore likely that humans are competitive, individualistic beings who discovered the competitive advantage of cooperation? The editors of Origins of Altruism and Cooperation (2011), Robert W. Sussman and C. Robert Cloninger suggest that cooperative behaviour is not just a byproduct of competition but an essential ingredient that underlies our ability to live together in groups, and that in fact our well-being depends on positive social interaction (pp.vii-viii).





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