A co-op is an organization that takes the idea of working together and puts it into a business structure. A cooperative is a businesss voluntarily owned and controlled by the people who use it - its members. It is operated solely for the benefit of its members, to meet their mutual needs. When groups of people have similar needs - such as the need for lower prices, more affordable housing, or access to telecommunications services - cooperatives offer great potential to meet those needs.
A co-op is a business! It is subject to the same needs and demands of any business: co-ops require sufficient financing, careful market analysis, strategic and comprehensive planning, well trained and competent personnel. Co-ops are not immune to the market and economic forces that cause small business to struggle and fail.
But in several important ways, co-ops are also unique and different. Most distinctly, a cooperative business is owned by the people who use its services-the members. Co-ops may resemble other businesses outwardly, but the fact that they are owned by members makes them unique.
Although definitions of co-ops vary, they all contain the following elements.
-Co-ops are owned and controlled by those who use their services (the members).
-Co-ops are democratically governed.
-Co-ops are businesses, not clubs of associations.
-Co-ops adhere to internationally recognized principles.
A simple definition of a co-op.
A co-op is a member owned, member controlled business that operates for the mutual benefit of all members and according to common principles established for coopeatives.
There are three basic types of co-ops.
1. Produce co-ops provide goods or services to members who are involved in producing products, such as farmers or artists.
2. Workers co-ops are owned and controlled on a democratic basis by their employees.
3. Consumer co-ops provide goods or services used primarily for personal consumption. Food co-ops are typically orgqanized as consumer co-ops.