Co-operatives are businesses that are owned and run by their members. There are five main types:

  1. Consumer: owned by consumers who buy goods or services from their cooperative
  2. Producer: owned by producers of commodities or crafts who have joined forces to process and market their products
  3. Worker: owned and democratically governed by employees who become co-op members
  4. Purchasing: owned by independent businesses or municipalities to improve their purchasing power
  5. Hybrid: a combination of co-op types, where people with common interests band together.

The Seven Principles

Co-operatives also generally subscribe to the following Seven Principles:

Principle #1: Voluntary and Open Membership

Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
Principle #2: Democratic Member Control 

Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
Principle #3: Member’s Economic Participation 

Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.
Principle #4: Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.
Principle #5: Education, Training, and Information 

Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.
Principle #6: Cooperation Among Cooperatives 

Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
Principle #7: Concern for Community

While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.