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October 23, 2017

10/4/2017 12:38:00 PM
October is Co-op Month
Ken Stern

October is international co-op month. Co-ops in countries across the world, in big cities and rural counties, are celebrating their successes in serving their members. They are championing their example of getting along: mutual cooperation. They are offering an alternative model of business ownership: equal equity. And they are proving that a different ownership structure – democratic governance – works.
In Japan, 91 percent of farmers belong to co-ops; 95 percent of New Zealand’s milk is from co-op dairies. Over 36 percent of Denmark’s consumer retail market is co-ops. Almost 42 percent of people in Norway belong to a co-op; in Canada, 40 percent of the population belong to at least one co-op.
Here in the U.S., not so much. We are most likely to be in co-ops if we are farmers, shop at REI, bank at credit unions or buy insurance from a mutual insurance company.
In the United States, almost 30,000 co-operatives provide more than two million jobs; co-ops here claim 256 million members. That includes multiple memberships; credit union and mutual insurance memberships makes up the majority. State Farm Insurance is the largest mutual insurance company in the world
Co-operatives are businesses owned and run by and for their members. Ownership is equal. Governance is democratic. Values, framed by seven internationally agreed upon principles, are at the core of every co-op. Operating for their members, they are future oriented. Operating for their members, they are committed to place, to where their members live and to the communities where they do business.
Some folks just like to cooperate. There is a spirit to supporting each other as people work together. As Karin Silvernale, of That’s Knot All Artists Co-Op told me: “It is a true co-op with every artist having a voice and an equal say.”
Voicing. Voting, Valuing. Working together. Not an easy path, but one to consider taking as we spend and invest our dollars and shape our future.

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