What is a Co-operative?
A Co-operative 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. Co-ops are based on the values of self help, shared decision making processes and economic participation, mutual benefit, and solidarity. This includes the values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
Five good reasons for Co-operatives include:
- Co-operatives are Community Enterprises
Co-ops keep economic benefits within a community. The Co-op exists to meet a need that is not being met by other businesses. Co-op members are its owners and interests are not siphoned off to outsiders.“I hate shopping at the supermarket. Too much choice and too much temptation for the kids…It’s encouraging to eat more fresh food .I feel like my money is going to more beneficial banks than Woolworths or Coles.” – Jodie “I like buying directly from the markets rather than supporting the big chain supermarkets. There is something empowering about shopping like this. You feel like you are making some small contribution.” – Susan
- Co-operatives promote Democracy
Co-ops are based on shared decision making processes. Co-ops are controlled by their members who solve problems and make policies together.“Everyone is open and honest about problems that arise, and issues are mostly resolved rather quickly. As a Co-op, we have a commitment to each other not just the food. This generosity of spirit keeps us on board.” – Mandy“A Co-op relies on every member taking responsibility for the healthy functioning of the group…collaborative decision making and sharing information effectively are primary to ensuring the healthy running of a Co-op.” -Susan
- Co-operatives build and consolidate a sense of Community
Co-ops empower ordinary people to actively participate in the provision of not for profit services that are of mutual benefit to them. People develop trusting relationships and a sense of solidarity and belonging. Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities.“Food is also a cultural link and our choices identify us as like minds/cultures. This is a comfort when we bring our children together for sorts, pick-ups and meetings. Our kids play together! We mothers “connect” over manual labour. It’s only a short time but it all contributes to my sense of building community.” – Jodie“Not only do we get affordable quality vegies, you have opportunities to build communities and friendships. That is why I stay.” –Susan“..we have begun to form some enriching relationships and networks through many of the families who are also members of the co-op. The commitment to an organic lifestyle stems much further than just consuming food.” – Mandy
- 4. Co-operatives raise Human Dignity
Co-ops can help people escape poverty and realise their dreams. Co-op’s provide the opportunity for members to learn new skills and knowledge. People are empowered to effect change and be involved in decisions and choices that improve their lives and those around them.“It forces routine and responsibility upon me that improves our family’s life and diet.” – Jodie
- Co-operatives challenge political, economic and social structures
Co-ops empower people to effect change. Members develop their own solutions to social and economic needs. Co-ops provide an organised way for people to relate to governments and economic power structures in more meaningful ways. They provide alternatives to mainstream structures.“I like being able to provide organic fruit and vegies for our family. It is an ideal we aspire to and being in a Co-op makes it achievable and affordable.” – Susan