Five Good Reasons for Co-operatives

    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
                         13 September 1995

               Five Good Reasons for Co-operatives  

1.   Co-operatives are Community Enterprises 

Co-operatives keep economic benefits within a community.
Profit is not siphoned off by outside interests, because the
co-op's members are its owners, and the co-op exists to fill a
need in a community that is not being met by other businesses.

*    Agricultural co-ops satisfy the need for supply,
     processing and marketing of goods. 

*    Consumer co-ops provide the members with the goods and
     services required of the preferred quality at competitive

*    Workers' productive co-ops are formed to create or
     maintain employment in a community.

*    Housing co-ops give low-income people the opportunity to
     own their own homes. 

*    Co-operative insurance protects individuals and small
     businesses from risk. 

*    Credits unions serve people of limited incomes not
     reached by commercial banks, and extend credit to
     microentrepreneurs who otherwise might not be able to
     secure financing.  

*    Tourism co-ops facilitate the opportunity of holiday stay
     and travel and offer fair prices and good quality service
     to their members.

*    Electric and telephone co-ops meet rural peoples' needs
     for power and telecommunications not satisfied by private

*    Community development co-ops are formed for the overall
     development of local communities and are specially
     concerned with social, economic and cultural development.

2.   Co-operatives Promote Democracy 

*    Co-operative members own their business. They provide
     share capital, elect a board of directors, and receive
     the benefits of ownership through better service and
     patronage refunds based on use. 

*    Co-ops teach people outside the mainstream into a
     nation's economic and political life. 

*    Co-ops teach people how to resolve problems
     democratically. Many individuals who received their
     education in democracy from co-operatives have gone on to
     become political leaders in their nations. 

*    In emerging democracies, co-ops help throw off the
     shackles of a non-market economy. Their members develop
     the skills of entrepreneurship and learn market values.  

3.   Co-operatives Build Open Markets 

As more and more governments divest state-owned enterprises,
there is a danger that these monopolies may be moved intact
into private hands. Co-operatives help avoid this pitfall by
ensuring wide participation by the users of the former state
service. Co-operatives spread economic power and encourage
competition. they provide market leverage to small producers
victimized by powerful cartels or sole-source companies. They
undercut middlemen and money lenders, whose charges are often
exorbitant. By ploughing profits back into the business,
co-ops can operate on narrower margins. Thus they help drive
down unfair prices, and set a competitive range for goods an

4.   Co-operatives Raise Human Dignity 

Co-operative help people escape poverty and achieve dreams,
such as owning a home or giving their children an education.
Since educated decision-making is essential to a co-op's
success, co-ops also teach new skills, from adult literacy to
business operations. Co-operatives empower individuals by
giving the chance to participate in decisions which have an
impact on them. Armed with the ability to effect change,
members find solutions to social and economic needs. Co-ops
provide an organized way for low-income people to relate  to
sometimes distant governments and economic power structures.  

5.   Co-operatives are Systems for Development 

Co-operatives draw community businesses into regional and
national networks. Local Co-ops benefit from larger business
volume, operating efficiencies and professional management.
The economic pyramid enables farmers to purchase supplies at
volume discounts, and receive profits from value-added
processing and consumer sales. Credit unions pool their
resources, and are able to transfer surplus savings to credit
unions in lower income areas. Electric co-operatives join
together to buy power at a lower cost. They become an engine
for development, spurring the growth of enterprises not
possible without reliable energy. Co-operative insurance
companies are tied into a worldwide reinsurance network to
protect against catastrophic losses. They pool groups of
individuals not served by commercial companies to guard
against personal and business risks.