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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. The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.


A co-operative is an organization owned by the members who use its services (a consumer co-operative or credit union), or by people who work there (a worker co-op), or by those who live there (a housing co-operative). When different stakeholder groups share a common interest in the success of an enterprise these groups can use different classes of membership in the co-op's bylaws to organize how they can work together (a multi-stakeholder co-op).


A co-operative is a different way of doing business. As such, the co-op model can be used by many types of organizations, non-profit or for-profit. A key difference between a traditional structure and a co-op's structure comes in the order of priorities which, for a co-op, are to first meet the needs of its membership in a productive, self-sufficient and socially responsible manner