What is a coop?
A cooperative is a business which is owned, operated and governed directly by its workers or by those who utilize its services.
Like any other type of business, cooperatives can provide a limitless range of goods or services to the community. Cooperatives are also legal entities with many of the same rights, responsibilities and obligations for accountability, efficiency and economic viability as any other form of business.
The prime distinction between a cooperative and other types of businesses lies in its broad, community-based ownership and democratic decision-making processes. While most corporations operate based on the directive of “one dollar – one vote,” coops are organized based on the principle of “one member – one vote.”
Coops give ordinary people a direct say in the affairs and policies which immediately affect their lives. They are responsive to the needs of their membership and the community first and foremost, rather than those of shareholders or financial institutions who may have little connection to the community itself, and whose main concern is financial return on investment.
Coops are autonomous, value-driven enterprises, set up to provide services to their members. They are based on the principles of voluntary, open membership and founded on shared economic investment and reward. If profits are generated, they are distributed equitably throughout its membership, or re-invested back into the enterprise in order to expand on services provided to the community.
Since democratic decision making is based on informed consent, coops strive to provide ongoing information and educational opportunities to its membership. This ensures a high degree of commitment and involvement from the community, and contributes to the long-term viability of the enterprise and of the cooperative movement as a whole.
Cooperatives also work together to broaden and strengthen the cooperative movement, through participation in cooperative associations such as the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Co-ops.
Cooperatives have a long and rich history of providing for the social needs of their communities, especially during tough economic times. Today, as the world awakens to the consequences of economic development governed by monolithic, multi-national financial institutions and corporations, now is the time for communities to take responsibility for their own well-being, by working together towards common goals of economic and environmental sustainability, and helping themselves by helping each other.