What is a Coop?


Co-operatives are autonomous associations formed and democratically run by people who come together to meet common economic, social and cultural needs. Founded on the principle of participatory governance, co-operatives are owned by those who use their services: their members.

Based on the principles of empowerment, education, and community, co-operatives operate promote participation both within their own organisation, and through a focus on community interaction, and support.

What is the difference between a co-operative and a mutual enterprise (CMEs)?

A mutual, mutual organisation or mutual society is an organisation (which is often, but not always, a company or business) based on the principle of mutuality. Unlike a true co-operative, members usually do not contribute to the capital of the company by direct investment, but derive their right to profits and votes through their customer relationship.

What values and principles guide CMEs?

CMEs provide consumers with a distinct values-based and community-owned and controlled alternative. Unlike the private, public, or voluntary sectors, all co-operatives around the world are guided by the same seven principles:

  1. Voluntary and open membership
  2. Democratic member control
  3. Member economic participation
  4. Autonomy and independence
  5. Education, training, and information
  6. Co-operation among co-operatives
  7.  Concern for Community

What are the economic and social benefits of the CME sector?

The CME sector promotes economic diversity and a prudent and common sense approach to business. The sector generates competition and choice in the market while providing competitive leverage for small to medium enterprises.

From a social aspect, co-operative and mutual enterprises empower people and communities to engage in business. In addition, CMEs:

  • educate communities in the operation of business
  • create a strong democratic governance culture in communities
  • improve the community and its inhabitants
  • CMEs instil the value of financial responsibility in people and businesses
  • CMEs re-build and maintain public trust in business

Are CMEs found in all sectors of the economy?

CMEs participate in numerous sectors of the economy including but not limited to:

  • Agriculture (including fishing)
  • Banking and Finance
  • Housing
  • Insurance
  • Personal services
  • Retail
  • Shared services
  • Wholesale and purchasing
  • Healthcare, aged care, childcare
  • Education and the arts

Where can I found out more information on the sector?

There are a number of places where you can find out more information on the sector including this website, International Co-operative Alliance and some of other counterparts across the world including Mutuo UKCo-operatives UK and Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada.

How did co-operatives start?

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