What is a Co-Op?
The International Co-operative Alliance defines a co-operative as “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.” In other words, co-ops are in business to provide what their owners want, and they are controlled democratically by their owners.
Cooperatives keep economic benefits within the community through creating jobs and, most importantly, supporting local producers and suppliers whenever possible. Profit is not siphoned off by outside interests and profit is never put before the needs of the shopper owners.
Common Ground is part of a larger, international community of co-ops that are an important force for economic democracy. There are consumer co-ops (e.g., food, housing, rural electric power, credit unions); producer co-ops (e.g.,farming, fishing); and worker co-ops (e.g., carpenters, mechanics). There are co-ops for day care, health care, farm supplies, insurance, tourism, and more. A “primary” co-op has human beings for members; a “secondary” co-op has whole co-ops for members. It is estimated that more than 750 million people in the world are members /owners of one or more co-ops. Common Ground is a primary consumer co-op.
Today co-ops around the world, including ours, are guided by seven principles. These principles help us remember who we are, what we are trying to do, and how we’ve agreed to do it.
Seven Cooperative Principles
- Voluntary and Open Membership
- Democratic Member Control
- Member Economic Participation
- Autonomy and Independence
- Education, Training and Information
- Cooperation Among Cooperatives
- Concern for Community