My favorite grocery store is Willy Street Co-op in Madison. At first I liked it because of its hip, earthy scene and ever-smiling faces. Then, as my food consciousness grew, I appreciated it for its quality products and local providers. Now, after years of membership, I proudly continue ownership in a community-minded organization that positively impacts Wisconsin, both economically and environmentally.
That’s a co-op for you.
October is National Cooperative Month and this year’s theme is “Cooperatives Build.” A cooperative is a business or organization that is owned and operated jointly by its members, all of whom share the profits and have a voice in how the organization is run. You can find co-ops in every industry and throughout the world. In Wisconsin alone, there are more than 700 cooperatives serving three million member-owners.
What makes cooperatives so special?
Seven principles, actually. These were established by the International Cooperative Alliance and are considered standards for the cooperative movement:
- 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
Simply put, cooperatives are a bringing together of people for the good of all—an economic democracy, if you will. Cooperatives create a buying and selling power that often isn’t available to people individually. Cooperatives sustain family businesses, fair trade, communities and natural resources.
National Co-op Month is a nod to the thousands of cooperatives across the U.S., from food stores, to credit unions, to insurance mutuals, and everything in between.
Thanks, co-ops. You’ve got my nod as well!