You’re in good company with co-ops
Neighbors helping neighbors to create a better world
A fair question people often ask is, “What’s in it for me?” This makes sense as we all need to act in our own self-interest every now and then. The cool thing about coops is we answer that question with, “This is what’s in it for we!”
When the market refuses to offer a good or service or does so at a high price, co-ops step in to fill the void. Cooperatives identify members of the community who have the same self-interests and bring them together to make a cooperative decision.
When the local electric cooperative got started, the folks in your community shared at least one self interest — they wanted electricity. In fact, many Americans who lived in rural parts of the country at that time needed electricity, which is why electric cooperatives were formed. Individuals acted in their own self-interest, but that self-interest led to the community and economic development of the rural areas in which they lived. Today, rural electric co-ops serve more than 42 million people in 47 states.
It is good to know that your friends and neighbors are also co-owners of your cooperative. People coming together to meet a particular need is at the heart of every kind of co-op. Local credit unions bring financial services to people banks don’t want to serve. In urban areas and college communities, housing co-ops offer people safe, reliable and affordable places to live. Many agricultural co-ops started as a way to get their products to market, whether it was oranges (Sunkist), dairy goods (Land O’Lakes), grapes (Welch’s), organic milk (Organic Valley) or any of the hundreds of other food products that co-ops bring to our table every day.
Many people who owned small businesses realized they, too, had a common self-interest: stay in business. So they formed purchasing co-ops like Ace Hardware and True Value so they could compete with big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Today, it is estimated that more than 40 percent of all residents in the U.S. are members of at least one co-op. Worldwide, well over a billion people are counted as co-op members.
So every time you turn on (or off) the lights, it can serve as a reminder that as a co-op member, you are in good company with your local neighbors — and with people all around the world.
Adam Schwartz is the founder of The Cooperative Way, a consulting firm that helps co-ops succeed. He is an author, speaker and member-owner of the CDS Consulting Co-op. You can follow him on Twitter — @adamcooperative — or email him at [email protected].