Working together – Co-operatives & Social Enterprise

A recent study done in Quebec found that the 5 year success rate for new cooperatives is 62% compared to 35% for other new businesses!

What is a Co-operative?

Simply put, a co-operative is a member-owned business enterprise where people work together to meet a common need. While they can differ in their setup, and may be either for-profit or not-for-profit, all co-operatives are democratic by nature. This means that every member of the co-op has an equal voice in how the enterprise will be run and how any resources or resulting capital will be allocated. A successful co-op is dependent on the commitment of its members to its ongoing process and can be formed by any group of 3 or more people who are at least 18 years of age and not currently under bankruptcy proceedings.

Why Choose to Start a Co-operative?

There are many benefits to starting a co-op instead of a more traditional business. The primary being that the enterprise is owned and controlled by its members and not investors who have little to no direct involvement. This sense of shared ownership leads to better decision making, increased efficiency, more active worker engagement and overall satisfaction. The shared nature of a co-op helps prevent small groups or individuals from taking control and any resulting capital is distributed proportionally back to the members. Because the members are also owners, there is increased job security, as well as long-term potential for growth and sustainability. If one member leaves the co-op, it does not necessarily mean the demise of the enterprise. The remaining members can choose to re-structure or add new members as needed.

Co-operatives can take on several different formats. A few of the more common types of co-ops are:

Worker Co-ops

  • Provide work for their members through the operation of the enterprise.
  • Skills, experience and interests are combined and any assets are owned by the co-op.
  • Examples include: production and manufacturing.

Producer Co-ops

  • Members work together, producing or marketing services directly to meet a common need.
  • Examples include: farmers and artisans

Consumer Co-ops

  • Serve the needs of their members by providing goods and services for their own use.
  • Examples include: food and childcare

In Canada, Manitoba has the second highest number of co-operatives with 400+ enterprises representing nearly every sector of the economy!

Developed by the International Co-operative Alliance, co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Every co-op operates according to the following values:

1. Membership is voluntary and open to the public.
2. Control of the co-operative is democratic; every member has one vote.
3. Members contribute to the capital of the co-operative.
4. Co-operatives are member-controlled; autonomy must be maintained when working with outside organizations.
5. Members will be provided with any necessary education and training to ensure that they are able to participate fully in the co-operative.
6. The strength of the co-operative is increased by working together with other co-operatives.
7. Although the primary focus of a co-operative is the needs of its membership, co-operatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.

If you’re a permanent resident and you’re interested in starting a co-operative, then contact us!