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The Ebytown Food Co-Operative The Ebytown Food Co-Operative

What is a co-op, and what does it mean to me?

Co-operatives are founded on a common idea. The idea is that people, no matter what economic class or educational level, know what's best for themselves. People can work together to meet their own needs.

Co-operatives and credit unions are owned and operated by members. This means co-ops are democratically controlled. Each member had one vote, regardless of how much investment is made in the co-operative or credit union. Generally, co-ops and credit unions are community-based organizations.

Co-op members are responsible neither to outside owners, nor to government. They are responsible to their own members. The members decide how the co-op or credit union will be run, what changes should be made if any, elect the board of directors, and decide what should be done with any surplus (profit) that is generated in co-op enterprises. In non-profit co-operatives, although the members do not own the co-op-- the co-op owns itself-- the members direct the day to day operations of the co-operative.

Co-ops and credit unions are the best example of how democratic principles can be applied to economic life. Co-operation means people working together to meet common goals and needs. Co-operatives provide opportunities for people to direct what happens in all aspects of their lives. Within a co-operative, people find strength in collective action and the powerful motivation of mutual support.

Who are the members of a co-op?

Members are the people or groups of people who use and need the services and products a co-operative provides. If the co-op is created to provide work, the workers are the member-owners. If the co-op is created to purchase goods and services, the the consumers (the buyers) are the members. People from all kinds of communities, backgrounds and ages are members of co-ops and credit unions. There are over two million members in Ontario!

Members assume some responsibilities in the running of the co-op and/or have a minimum investment in it. Co-ops with share capital require that members buy a share-- a financial investment in the co-op. The amount of the share varies depending on the size and type of co-operative or credit union. Member equity or member share/s entitles a member to one vote. Each member has one vote, regardless of the number of shares held. Some co-ops are not-for-profit co-ops (co-ops without share capital). These co-ops do not distribute shares.

Responsibilities of members range from electing the board of directors to serving on committees. Members help out with various activities such as distribution in a food co-op, or organizing an activity at a housing co-op.

Last updated: March 21st, 2009, by Kay Biefer