What is a cooperative 2018-10-25T10:21:00+01:00

Often Cooperatives can look like any other business. So what makes them different? What makes co-operatives unique is that they are run not by institutional investors or distant shareholders, but by their members. People like you and me – customers, employees, residents, farmers, artists, taxi drivers…

Whether it’s a football club like Barcelona or a large retailer, your local co-op pub or group of dairy farmers, co-operatives are successful businesses. There are nearly 7,000 independent co-operatives across the UK, working in all parts of the economy. Together they contribute more than £34 billion to the British economy.

They range from multi-billion pound businesses to small community enterprises. They work in everything from healthcare to housing, renewables to retail, sports to social care. And they operate across the country.

People of all kinds benefit through membership of their co-operative. Farmers are strengthening their position in competitive and global markets. Employees are having a say in how their organisations are run. Customers are influencing the businesses they use. Local residents are saving vital services.

As businesses owned and run by their members, co-operatives offer a solution to the growing sense of powerlessness people feel over business and the economy, giving them control of the businesses they are closest to – whether they shop at them, work at them or supply them.

What if you had more control over the things that matter to you – your workplace, your football club, your mobile phone provider?
From the outside a co-operative might look like any other business. It is what happens inside that makes them different. 
They are businesses that are owned and run by the people closest to them. Whether they are customers, employees, suppliers or local residents, the members of a co-operative have an equal say in what it does and decide how its profits are shared.

What if you had influence over the big decisions made by businesses you use or work for?
As businesses that are democratically owned and run by their members, co-operatives give an equal say to people like you and me. Not distant investors or shareholders but customers, employees, residents, farmers, artists, taxi drivers…
They have an equal say in what the co-operative does. So as well as getting the products or services they need, members help shape the decisions their co-operative makes.

What if you could help decide how the profits of businesses you shop at or work for are used?
Co-operatives want to trade successfully – they are businesses and need to make a surplus after all.
But rather than rewarding outside investors, it is the members who benefit and get to decide how to share a co-op’s profits.
Whether farmers or freelancers, tenants or taxi drivers, people do better by working together.

From Barca football club to parmesan cheese, co-ops are behind some of our most iconic brands and products.
A diverse and vibrant sector, co-operatives work in all parts of the economy, from healthcare to housing, farms to football clubs, credit unions to community owned shops, pubs to public relations and wind farms to web design.
The main thing to remember is that co-operatives are not just supermarkets and funeral services – although these are among the most successful co-operatives found on the High Street today, they can be pretty much anything!

What if there were more businesses putting people above profits? Imagine the difference.
As businesses that put people in control, co-operatives are a force for good right across the world.
They are helping farmers maintain their livelihoods, giving employees a say in how their organisations are run and enabling local residents to save vital services. From Nettleham to Nigeria, co-operatives are building a better world.


Cooperative Principles

The seven Cooperative Principles are guidelines by which all cooperatives put their values into practice

Open and Voluntary membership
“Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.”

Democratic member control
“Cooperatives are democratic organisations 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 co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.”

Member Economic Participation
“Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the Co-operative. 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 co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the Co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by their membership.”

Autonomy and Independence
“Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their Co-operative autonomy.”

Education, Training and Information
“Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of Co-operative.”

Co-operation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

Concern for Community
“Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of  their communities through policies approved by their members”

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