Co-ops 101

TESA Study Guide to the Cooperative Movement | TESA (Toolbox for Education and Social Action) is a great resource for learning about co-ops in a fun and engaging way. This source provides an overview about cooperatives, several start-up guides, and videos. Start here! | Cultivate.Coop is a library of information about cooperatives. Everything here is created by and for people who work in co-ops. Start here!

In Good Company: A Guide to Cooperative Employee Ownership | Looking for a deep dive? This toolkit covers all basics of worker-coops, and gets into the technical structure of building and supporting them.

International Cooperative Alliance | If you are looking for global resources, the International Cooperative Alliance has numerous reports, and news articles, as well as facts and data from across the world.

Farming Co-ops 101 | This is a beautiful guide to farming as a cooperative, a project by Greenhorns.

Working Together

Worker Cooperative Governance and Management Models for Small Organizations | This is a great visual overview of governance and management of co-ops, and how it differs from traditional businesses. It gives some case studies

Design of Governance Systems for Cooperative Businesses | This document outlines how democratic decision making can be designed, managed, and adapted. A great place to start when looking for how to build a democratic organization.

Organizational and Financial Development

Template for Co-op Bylaws | Why start from scratch? There are many templates for bylaws for co-ops online. Here is one template your group can use.

Assess your Ecosystem | This ecosystem assessment tool is designed to help your group understand the surrounding environment. The purpose of this analysis is for you to see how you might leverage your strengths and resources to build out the missing Essential, Important, and Environmental elements. If you follow the directions, it will produce a visual bubble chart!

Pro Forma Template | This is a standard financial tool to help your group create a financial projections. You can use numbers you already have, if you have already started your business, or you can use numbers based off of your research and personal experience. This is a good tool to work through and complete before you seek a loan, or any kind of investment.

Casa Nueva Restaurant, Ohio | Want a small-scale example? Casa Nueva really embodies co-op principle No. 6, Cooperation Among Cooperatives. Their website has their worker policies and a worker handbook, and other samples of how they govern themselves. Check it out!

A Bookkeeping Cooperative | ABC is a worker-owned bookkeeping co-op, and they also have a giant list of financial resources, and resources for co-ops and non-profits.

Converting to a Cooperative | Becoming Employee Owned: A Small Business Toolkit for Transitioning to Employee Ownership will equip economic developers nationwide to identify opportunities for employee ownership in their communities.


7 Cooperative Principles

1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership

"Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination."

2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control

"Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner."

3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation

"Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership."

4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence

"Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy."

5th Principle: Education, Training and Information

"Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of co-operation."

6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives

“Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.”

7th Principle: Concern for Community

“Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.”