There are over 9,000 co-ops in Canada with over 18 million members. A co-operative is an organization owned by the members who use its services (a retail co-op or credit union), or by people who work there (a worker co-op), or by those who live there (a housing co-op).
Co-ops are different from other businesses in that they use profits for purposes that are directed by the board and membership. Co-ops exist in every sector of the economy and can touch every aspect of our lives. Every co-op is unique, serving the needs, and built on the capacity of its community.
You can work in a workers’ co-op, live in a housing co-op, buy your groceries, clothing and other items from retail co-ops, send your children to a child care co-op, do all your banking at a credit union, insure your life and your assets with an insurance co-op and maintain your well-being through a Health, Wellness or Social Services co-op.
Co-ops provide consumers with a distinct values-based and community-owned and controlled option. Unlike the private, public, or voluntary sectors, all co-ops around the world are guided by the same seven principles:
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Member economic participation
- Autonomy and independence
- Education, training, and information
- Co-operation among co-operatives
- Concern for Community