Co-operatives and credit unions are community-based organizations that care not only about the bottom lines of their businesses, but also about the needs of their members and the quality of life in their communities. They bring many obvious benefits to their members such as sharing costs or financial dividends. But the process of being an active member brings its own rewards, allowing member-owners to solidify social and economic links in the community. Perhaps most importantly, membership provides a common ground and support to reduce isolation, and build confidence and skills.
Co-operative organizations differ from other businesses in three key ways:
A Different Purpose: Co-ops and credit unions meet the common needs of their members, whereas most investor-owned businesses exist to maximize profit for shareholders.
A Different Control Structure: Co-ops and credit unions use a system of one-member/one-vote, not one-vote-per-share. This helps them to serve common interests and to ensure that people, not capital, control the organization.
A Different Allocation of Profit: Co-ops and credit unions share profits among their member-owners on the basis of how much they use the organization, not on how many shares they hold.
There are a multitude of benefits that come from successful co-operatives and the ones that will apply to your situation will be as unique as your co-op is itself.
- People trump money in terms of priorities
- Modest savings for all instead of the excessive accumulation of profits by a few
- Opportunities to strengthen community bonds by helping one another
- You can define your own needs instead of letting a conglomerate do it for you
- Product and service development by the people for the people
- Control of your own future
- Greater community autonomy
- More honest and ethical business practices
- Freedom from homogenized mass-market-driven goods and services
- Better access to quality products and services
- Fair market prices
- Strong customer/client loyalty
- Greater employment opportunities
- Ability to change things that don’t work
- Economic and social growth in the community
- Access to new markets