Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cooperatives: Models of Community and Sustainability

By Dodie Jiffar
Contributor, Gulf Coast Philanthropy

Today’s businesses are in fierce competition for customers. More and more, customers are aware that what they buy and where they buy it has a direct impact on our communities through sales tax and how businesses reinvest in the communities they serve.  Common ways that businesses reinvest in the community include offering scholarships, donating a percentage of their profits, or simply making regular contributions of money, services, or volunteer hours to charitable organizations. However, cooperative businesses go even further, defining their purpose and success in terms of how they support the community.

Cooperatives, commonly called co-ops are, “autonomous associations of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprises.” Examples of co-operative businesses include credit unions (this is why members of one credit union can use teller services and ATMs from another credit union free of charge), as well as some grocery stores and apartments complexes in large metropolitan cities. 

Cooperative businesses are based on 7 principles
1.      Voluntary and Open Membership
2.      Democratic Member Control
3.      Member Economic Participation
4.      Autonomy and Independence
5.      Education, Training and Information
6.      Cooperation among Cooperatives
7.      Concern for Community

Modern cooperatives typically view the seventh principle, concern for community, in terms of their relationship within the community and sustainability. They strive to build relationships with other coops and local businesses and to serve the people who live in the communities through charity events and education. Further, their business model is based on environmentally conscious growth that is sustainable and equitable.

To find cooperative businesses in your area, enter the following terms in a search engine:
“Cooperative + type of business/service + city”

Already know a great cooperative in the Gulf Coast Region?
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