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Coops Build a Better World

The theme of Coop Week, from October 15-21, is Cooperatives Build a Better World. A cooperative is a farm, business, or other organization that is owned jointly by its members, who share the benefits and economies of scale that membership brings. Cooperation is an age-old concept that historically and in the present day teaches people to take control of their own financial lives. There are examples all over the world of individuals and whole communities who have improved their economic well-being through cooperation.

A short history lesson is helpful in understanding how this works. Back in nineteenth century England, the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was founded with the simple goal of accessing decent food at reasonable cost and true weights and measures. They pooled their resources, worked together and opened a store where owners and customers were one and the same.

The Pioneers learned about business and finances, sold good quality food at reasonable prices and weighed it fairly. They shared their knowledge with other fledgling coops. Along the way, they laid out the seven Cooperative Principles of Open Membership, Democracy, Autonomy, Monetary Participation, Education, Cooperation among Cooperatives and Concern for Community. Today, coops all over the world hold these principles as their core values.

The Cooperative model has proven to be adaptable, functional and portable. A coop may have three members or thousands of members. It might be a Credit Union, a grain marketing association, a grocery store, a health clinic or a Rural Electrification Association. Some coops are groups of farmers, fishermen or crafters who sell their products direct to markets. Others are store-front businesses that sell goods or services at fair prices and return profits to members as rebates or as reduced cost.

From their beginnings as a means of lifting people out of poverty to the present day where Coops are modern, competitive businesses, one thing remains the same. Coops Build a Better World.

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