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Co-ops 101

A co-op is a business owned and operated by and for its members.

Co-ops aren't owned by a single individual or speculative investors. We're based on shared ownership by people who have a personal stake in the business and its impact: Consumers who own the store they buy from, workers who own the business they work for, farmers who own the company that gets their products to market, or a combination of stakeholders.

Co-ops are a powerful economic alternative, one that acknowledges our interconnectedness and leverages our shared resources.

Solidarity cooperatives bring together multiple ownership groups.

Central Co-op is a solidarity cooperative with both consumer and worker ownership. Solidarity co-ops are one way that connected groups of stakeholders can work together for their common good. They can take different forms, based on the needs, resources, and visions of those involved. Weaver Street Market of Carrboro, NC, is a well-known example of a solidarity cooperative that also has both worker and consumer ownership. Membership at Fifth Season Cooperative in the Midwest is open to producers, producer groups, processors, distributors, institutions, restaurants, and retail operations. 

Solidarity co-ops expand on the basic cooperative model in ways that are both symbolic and practical, helping build resilient communities and economic democracy.

Co-ops put their members' needs and values into action.

While co-ops are for-profit, we're not just here to turn a buck. We operate to serve our members, and we follow cooperative values and principles. As envisioned by the Rochdale Pioneers (pictured above), who spearheaded the modern cooperative movement, co-ops should embody the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. And most co-ops also follow the internationally-recognized Seven Cooperative Principles. Central Co-op follows our own Twelve Principles--see below for more on those!

Cooperation is a powerful and timeless tool.

Humans have been practicing cooperative economics since the dawn of time--you could say it's in our DNA. Cooperation helps communities meet local needs and have more control over their resources, like food, healthcare, housing, equipment, access to markets, and their own labor. Co-op members save resources by pooling theirs with others, sharing costs and distributing profits back to the co-op or to the members, and their voices are an essential part of the co-op's decisionmaking process.

Food co-ops make important contributions to the health and wealth of our communities. 

Compared to other grocers, we spend more on wages and benefits, contribute more to charity and community organizations, stock more organic, people- and earth-friendly foods and products, and source from more local producers. Plus we kick in more to the local tax base than out-of-state chains.


The Twelve Central Co-op Principles

Co-ops share vision and culture! Central Co-op is guided by the following twelve principles. The first seven are based on the International Cooperative principles, followed by most co-ops, and the final five were adopted in late 2015.

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership
  2. Democratic Member Governance
  3. Member Economic Participation
  4. Autonomy and Independence
  5. Education, Training, and Information
  6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives
  7. Concern for Community
  8. Concern for Ecosystems
  9. Concern for Workers
  10. Skilled Cooperative Management
  11. Strategic Leadership
  12. Innovative Culture


Co-ops 102: Food For Change Film and Conversation

For our 35th birthday, Central Co-op and our cooperative community, including a panel of cooperative experts, gathered for a screening of the film Food For Change, on October 16, 2014. The panel talked about what's so special about cooperatives, the Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade, and possibilities for a cooperative future. Watch it here!


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