A cooperative, or co-op, buys and sells products or services just like any other business. The difference is a co-op is owned and governed by its members, the people who use it, rather than by stockholders. And, profits are reinvested in the co-op or distributed to its members. Cooperatives adhere to a set of seven cooperative principles that guide how the business is run and how decisions are made.
Today, there are nearly 30,000 cooperatives in the United States, with more than 100 million members. In nearly every part of the economy, people have joined together to do business more effectively or to get the products and services they need—from food to construction equipment to childcare—through cooperatives. Learn about different types of cooperatives here.
Cooperatives can be enterprises owned and controlled by individual members, and directly serve the collective needs of those individuals. Credit unions and food cooperatives are familiar examples.
Cooperatives can be comprised of individual and usually independent businesses that form to share purchasing of product or services, like volume purchasing, marketing, or administration.
Individual communities or public institutions such as school districts may also create cooperatives to purchase or provide services at a scale that keeps cost down and value high. A food service cooperative serving a region would be a good example.
Charitable and Religious
Charitable and religious organizations may adopt cooperative strategies as members of a cooperatively-owned enterprise to reduce operating and administrative costs or provide services.
Cooperatives are a proven strategy for achieving positive economic and social development outcomes in wide range of settings. Nothing says community development like cooperatives.
Learn about the co-op sectors here.