What is a Co-op?
Cooperatives are people-centered enterprises jointly owned and democratically
controlled by and for their members to realize their common economic, social and
cultural needs and aspirations.
As enterprises based on values and principles, they put
fairness and equality first, allowing people to create sustainable enterprises
that generate long-term jobs and prosperity. Managed by producers, users or workers,
cooperatives are run according to the "one member, one rule.”
(International Cooperative Alliance.)
The basic cooperative model was born out of the Industrial
Revolution in the early 1800’s and the first co-op was founded in 1844 in Roachdale,
For an interesting short history of the first co-op go here:
National Co-op month is October!
The 7 Cooperative Principles
Most co-ops abide by the Seven Cooperative Principles, first drawn up by the Rochdale
Alliance. They are still the foundational guide for co-ops around the world, although
recently there have been some adjustments in wording to bring them into line with
today’s more diverse societies and complex modern social issues. Here they are as
adopted by the International Cooperative Alliance in 1995:
Membership in a cooperative is open to all people who can reasonably use its services
Democratic member control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members
Member economic participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative
Autonomy and independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members
Education, training and information
Education and training for members, elected representatives (directors/trustees), CEOs, and employees
Cooperation among cooperatives
By working together cooperatives improve services, bolster local economies and effectively deal with social and community needs.
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies supported by the membership.
The Triple Bottom Line
Our Co-op, and most others, adhere to the “Triple Bottom Line” of Profit-People-Planet, which defines the Co-ops operating principles. Having concerns beyond just profit immediately sets co-ops apart from conventional markets. In the co-operative, grass-roots business model, energy and resources devoted to societal and environmental needs of the community can be made available partly because of the absence of top-heavy management (CEOs, shareholders, etc.) Co-ops have the economic freedom to serve the needs of their member/owners and their community.
Types of Co-ops
Co-ops exist to offer a wide variety of services and products. For example, there are electric co-ops organized under the National Rural Electric Co-operative Association (NRECA, www.electric.coop), housing co-ops, which have become vital in helping provide affordable housing across the U.S., and the familiar outdoor equipment store, REI Co-op (www.rei.com). Food co-ops are the most numerous, however; they have along history and number in the hundreds just in North America. Go here for a complete
list and how to find them: