Building a Co-operative Economy
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What's a Co-op?

Co-ops are a different way of doing things.

Traditionally co-operative ("co-ops") have been businesses that are owned and controlled by the people who use their services. They are an expression of the power people have when they recognize their common interests and act collectively. For a chart on how co-ops differ from investor-owned businesses, click here.

Because of their inherent roots in community and highly democratic structure, the co-op model is also often used to deliver social services, sometimes as non-profit organizations. Such co-ops may also choose to register as charities.

These videos created by Co-ops UK and Desjardins explain about co-ops in a different way.

Whether organized as a business or something more resembling a social service agency, co-operatives are legally recognized entities that are engaged in a huge diversity of activities.

Co-ops are founded on a common idea - that people, no matter what their economic class or educational level, know what's best for themselves. Through co-operation, people work together to meet their common needs.

Co-ops take many different forms: they are businesses offering their members products or services; social enterprises providing such necessities as housing or employment; businesses that are owned and operated by their workers; or public services offering members health care or child care.

You may even be a member of a co-op yourself, even if you don't realize it.

For instance, anyone with an account in a credit union is a member of a co-op. Credit unions are simply financial co-operatives, owned and operated by their members to provide them with banking services.

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is a well-known Canadian co-operative that began in British Columbia. Anyone who has ever purchased something from MEC is a member and so is entitled to elect or even run to sit on its Board of Directors.