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From grocery stores to service providers, cooperatives come in many different sizes and are integral part of our economy. Yet aside from a few details, how many people truly know what a cooperative is and how it works? Let’s dive deeper into the specifics of a cooperative.
A co-op is an organization that is owned and democratically controlled by its Members, for its Members.
The Members of a co-op determine how the business will run, elect the Board of Directors, and ensure the organization is following the cooperative principles - that all cooperatives share internationally.
Cooperatives can provide nearly any product or service and can be either non-profit, or for-profit organizations.
Cooperatives were created to bring people together and build a better, more sustainable world through cooperation. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative Members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
A growing number of people in Canada and around the world are recognizing the benefits of taking part in a cooperative. Though there are many unique cooperatives, here are the main five types you can take part in:
Producer cooperatives: Some cooperatives process and market their Members' products and services directly. Other producer cooperatives may lessen costs and strain on input necessary to their Members' economic activities, with a mutual benefit for the producer. Examples: Agriculture cooperatives, advisory services, etc.
Multi-stakeholder cooperatives: The Membership of these cooperatives is made of different categories of Members who share a common interest in the organization. Examples: home care services, health services, community services, etc.
Housing cooperatives: These types of cooperatives allow for the opportunity to share costs of home ownership or a building ownership. Examples: condominiums, rentals, etc.
A critical difference between a traditional business’s structure and a cooperatives' structure is what they prioritize. For a cooperative, they wish to first meet its Membership's needs in a productive, self-sufficient and socially responsible manner.
All cooperatives around the world are guided by the same seven principles:
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of Membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their Members, who actively participate in setting their policies, and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the Membership. In primary cooperatives, Members have equal voting rights (one Member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of Membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting Members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the Membership.
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their Members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their Members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
Cooperatives provide education and training for their Members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
Cooperatives serve their Members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their Members.
These values were created by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) to help cooperators run their businesses more efficiently and effectively. The Statement on the Corporate Identity values was internationally agreed upon.
Happy Co-op Week 2020 from your friends,