WHAT IS A CO-OP?
“A cooperative 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.”
- The International Cooperative Alliance
In other words, a co-op is any entity made up of a group of people coming together to meet a need they all have, owned and operated by members collectively and democratically.
Co-ops have over a century of (known) history among Black & brown communities around the world as a tool for survival, community care, worker empowerment, wealth-building, keeping wealth within the hands of their community, and challenging the inherent racism & inequality of our current economic system.
There are many different types of co-ops, such as:
Worker Co-ops (what this workbook focuses on)
A business collectively owned & democratically managed by its workers.
Producer Co-ops (also known as “marketing cooperatives)
An entity collectively owned & democratically managed by producers of a similar product who market their products together. They may also purchase raw materials together, or distribute their products together.
A business or entity collectively owned & democratically managed by the consumers who use it so that the consumers have ownership, bargaining power, and influence over the goods and services provided by the co-op.
A form of homeownership in which residents share the cost of ownership of the home or building, which cannot then be sold for profit.
No matter what kind it is, ALL co-ops are:
A cooperative is jointly owned and governed by its members.
Cooperatives are run by the democratic principle of “one member, one vote.”
Cooperatives are operated for the benefit of their members. In a cooperative, profit is redistributed back to the members based on an equitable system.
Wedge Community Co-op, Minneapolis
All co-ops also share the following principles. These are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice, written by the International Cooperative Alliance.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives 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
Cooperatives 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 cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives 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 cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. 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 cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives 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 cooperative autonomy.
5. Education, Training, and Information
Cooperatives 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. Cooperation among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7. Concern for Community
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
Click on the documents below to download the files.
Black Cooperatives Syllabus
What is a Co-op DCWF
Steps of Developing a worker-cooperative_FCL.pdf
“Even if segregation is gone, we will still need to be free; we will still have to see that everyone has a job. Even if we can all vote, but if people are still hungry, we will not be free…Singing alone is not enough; we need schools and learning…Remember, we are not fighting for the freedom of the Negro alone, but for the freedom of the human spirit, a larger freedom that encompasses all of mankind.” - Ella Baker