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A cooperative (also spelled co-operative, or co-op) is when several people come together in cooperation to reach a common goal. It is a type of organization used to make the lives of its members easier; it is usually not focused on making profit, instead focusing on serving member needs.
Cooperative ownership can have different details about what ownership means and how cooperation works. A basic cooperative-ownership structure has the following characteristics:
- Ownership is based on voluntary participation
- Members of the cooperative are also users (also known as patrons)
- Decisions are made on a basis of one member = one vote
History and examples
The first cooperative was a store in Rochdale, England started in 1844. The people who started it wanted food that was cheaper and better quality. Since then, people have found many ways to cooperate.
Examples of cooperatives:
- Farmers provide their own transport and marketing to get better prices for their crops
- Poor people protect themselves from money-lenders, and workers save for their retirement (as in a credit union)
- Fishers package their fish to get a better price
- Villagers provide themselves with electricity or water
- Residents own their apartment building
The International Cooperative Alliance was started in 1885. It reports that there are 800 million cooperative members in the world.