What is a cooperative?
Simply put, a cooperative (usually called a co-op) is a business that is owned and managed by its members. The structure is to pool resources to satisfy a common need, while providing goods and services as economically and efficiently as possible. As locally-owned businesses, co-ops are committed to the people they serve and the communities in which they live.
Owners have a voice in what is sold to them, as well as in the overall organization of their particular co-op. Owners get the most buying power for their money, and the money stays in the community, contributing to its economic strength.
Co-ops are everywhere. There are roughly 30,000 consumer co-ops in the United States employing more than two million people, and bringing in $654 billion in revenue. Every day in America, the lives of as many as 100 million people are affected by co-ops. The cooperative structure is flexible and endlessly adaptable, and in the twenty-first century, co-ops provide most products and services a person could ever need, from cradle to grave.
Co-ops empower people to improve their quality of life and enhance their economic opportunities through self-help, education, and active involvement.
Did we mention that you own it? Co-ops are formed by their members when the marketplace fails to provide needed goods or services at affordable prices and acceptable quality.
A Global Movement
Throughout the world, co-ops are providing members with consumer goods and other services that would otherwise not be available to them.
As a member of the International Cooperative Alliance, here are the definition of a co-op, values and principles Delridge Grocery Co-op follows.
A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.
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.
The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, 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.
2. Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives 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.
3. Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the 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 the membership.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into 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.
5. 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-operation.
6. 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.
7. Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
Become a Member
The Delridge Grocery Co-op welcomes everyone, and you do not have to be a co-op member to shop at our neighborhood store. However, we are seeking founding members whose membership will make this neighborhood cooperative grocery possible. Through your membership investment, you are actively helping to bring quality food and food sources to our neighborhood.
Ready to become a member?