A co-op is a business controlled by its members. Members are user-owners; they patronize the business but also own its earnings and assets. They control the co-op’s day-to-day operations, its finances, and its mission. Cooperatives offer many advantages that other businesses cannot. Saving money for their patrons while providing the best quality products at the lowest cost allows for greater economic democracy and self-determination. Since they operate for the benefit of their user-owners, co-ops can easily adapt to reflect the diverse and changing needs of their patrons. The cooperative model can be adapted to a variety of businesses. There are food co-ops, housing co-ops, rural electric co-ops, and even financial co-ops (credit unions). Despite the diversity of goals and traditions in the co-op sector, all co-ops follow certain guiding principles.
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