What is a Co-operative?




Co-operatives operate for the benefit of their member-owners. In a Co-operative, those with similar needs act together and pool their resources for mutual gain. But the returns are not just monetary. Members ensure that their Co-operative business provides the best quality products and services at the lowest possible cost. Members control the business through participation in their Co-operative and through democratic practice. These member-owners share equally in the control of their Co-operative. They meet at regular intervals, hear detailed reports, and elect directors from among themselves. The directors, in turn, hire management to handle the day-to-day affairs of the Co-operative in a way that services the members' interests.




Members invest in shares in the business to provide capital for a strong and efficient operation. All income (profits) left after bills are paid and money is set aside for operations and improvements are returned to co-op members. Co-operatives work together on the regional and national level to promote exchange among Co-operatives, foster regional Co-operative development, provide educational services, and provide a forum for examining and acting on common concerns of the Co-operative movement.




Co-operatives are united internationally through the International Co-operative Alliance which aims to promote Co-operative development and trade worldwide. A Co-operative can be established for any type of enterprise where there are group of individuals with similar interest recognize the benefit of cooperating for the common good of each other; be it beekeepers, fresh produce, farmers, investments ,youth etc. Another type of Co-operative that is established to provide savings opportunity, credit and loans to its members is called a CREDIT UNION.




Co-operatives are democratically controlled and member-owned. Credit Unions can provide members the opportunity to own their own financial institution and help them create opportunities such as starting small businesses, building family homes and educating themselves and their children. This is a service that can be extended to Non-Financial Co-operatives.



Co-operatives:

Encourage and help members to save regularly to achieve their financial goals
Provide loans to their members at competitive rates
Provide financial counseling to their members often at no cost


CO-OPERATIVE VALUES

Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.