What is a cooperative?

“A cooperative is 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.”

A cooperative is an organization owned and controlled by the people who use its products and services. Cooperatives can vary in purpose but share that they meet members’ specific objectives and adapt to their changing needs. Profits generated are either reinvested in the enterprise or returned to the members. Cooperatives bring people together in a democratic and equal way.

Cooperatives are businesses owned and run by their members. Whether the members are the customers, employees, or residents, they have an equal say in what the company does and a share in the profits. They allow people to take control of their economic future. Because shareholders do not own them, their activities’ economic and social benefits stay in their communities.

The cooperative as a form of business organization began during the Industrial Revolution. Cooperatives promoted the interests of the less powerful members of society. Workers, consumers, farmers, artisans, and others found that they could accomplish more by combining their resources and working together.

Cooperatives can  address different needs, for example:

  • Producers like farmers, artisans, or industrialists utilize the cooperative to market or process their goods.
  • Workers in areas as diverse as bicycle sales, baked goods production, and catalog sales use cooperatives to create employment that offers many benefits.
  • Consumers use cooperatives for better prices or locally sourced food or other goods.
  • Private businesses or public entities gain purchasing power through bulk buying and obtaining products or services that are difficult for individuals.
  • Parents can gain quality childcare, preschool education, charter, or private education.
  • Homeownership is affordable or developed to meet the needs of seniors, students, or people with disabilities using the cooperative model.

Members are the cooperative, they:

  • Have one vote according to the business policies. Trade amount with the cooperative rather than investment in the cooperative is the basis for each member’s earnings.
  • Support the cooperative by doing business.
  • Also, support the cooperative by investing in it. It takes money for the cooperative to grow. When members put money into the collective, they help build the business and, at the same time, invest in their future.
  • Support the cooperative by encouraging others to join.
  • Support the cooperative by informing themselves about the activities and essential decisions.
Cooperative advantage

What is different about a cooperative identity: Cooperatives are uniquely member-owned, member-controlled entities that exist to provide benefits to members. […]

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Cooperative identity, values

A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their everyday economic, social, and cultural needs and […]

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Cooperative Principles

Cooperatives worldwide generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995. […]

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