by Jayne Russell
I woke up this morning with a sore back. There’s nothing new about that, it happens every day. It would be oh so easy to gripe about it all day and do the whole, “woe is me” thing. That’s easy. What’s harder is to remove myself from “me” and remember that far too many people didn’t have a bed to get out of this morning. And if they did, their day might involve scrounging for food, avoiding armed rebels, or knowing they have no access to medical care of any kind. And then, my back feels a bit better.
This also reminds me of how proud I am to be working for a Canadian co-operative (The Co-operators) and as such part of a growing co-operative sector worldwide. This year co-operatives received a gift — the United Nations declared 2012 International Year of Co-operatives. And, what a wonderful chance to tell our story. A story of promise and hope, of empowerment and a fundamental belief that all humans are equal and entitled to the same quality of life.
Co-operative enterprises around the world are delivering on that promise through local action and real solutions. Co-operative enterprises pick-up where others fail or respond to needs no one else cares about.
So what exactly is a co-op?
Co-operatives and credit unions are driven by both economic and social concerns. They are community-based organizations that care not only about the bottom lines of their businesses, but about the needs of their members and the quality of life in their communities.
Co-operatives and credit unions differ from other businesses in three key ways: A Different Purpose: The primary purpose of co-operatives and credit unions is to meet the common needs of their members, whereas the primary purpose of most investor-owned businesses is to maximize profit for shareholders.
A Different Control Structure: Co-operatives and credit unions use the one-member/one-vote system, not the one-vote-per-share system used by most businesses. This helps the co-operative or credit union serve the common need rather than the individual need, and is a way to ensure that people, not capital, control the organization. A Different Allocation of Profit: Co-operatives and credit unions share profits among their member-owners on the basis of how much they use the co-op, not on how many shares they hold. Co-operatives and credit unions also tend to invest their profits in improving service to members and promoting the well-being of their communities. (Source: Canadian Co-operative Association)
So are we ready for a world that puts people before profits? If the Occupy Movement tells us anything, the answer is yes.
We are ready for a change. Co-operatives are the game changer. It’s our time to shine.
One billion people on the planet are members of a co-operative. So why are we the best kept secret? Go tell a friend. I thank you, and so does my back.
Pleasantville Note: I sit on The Co-Operators Community Action Panel for Ottawa. My experience with them has been extremely positive, but it wasn’t until recently that I had a firm understanding of what a cooperative was. I asked Jayne (my Co-operators liaison) to please share with my readers because I felt the information was valuable. She graciously agreed.