Cooperatives are a group of people working together to meet a shared need. Cooperatives can take many forms and are an exciting model of business or community asset ownership with over 5450 independent cooperatives operating throughout the UK.
The official definition of a cooperative (from International Cooperative Alliance) says a cooperative is: "an association of persons united to meet their common needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise"
They can be formed of employees of a business, members of a local community or a group of customers. Members of a Cooperative share ownership of a business or organisation and make decisions collectively ensuring everyone has their say.
No matter what industry or service they operate in, all cooperatives share the same seven principles of cooperation in their work:
Cooperative businesses operate like any other successful business with the exception that all the members of the business have an input on what happens to the profits instead of external shareholders.
Often these profits are reinvested in the business to help improve operations or recruit new staff. Profits may also be share among members of the cooperative or used to help fund work in the local community.
Cooperatives bring people together through shared values. They can be businesses in any area and can be any size such as healthcare to housing, farms to football clubs, credit unions to community owned shops, pubs to public relations, wind farms to web design.
See our page on different types of co-operatives for more information.