“A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.” This definition provided by the International Co-operative Alliance gives a nice summary of the great potential for co-operative enterprise structures to create people-centred business operations that benefit communities and the natural systems that support them.

Co-ops provide for an egalitarian, “horizontal” organisational structure that is inherently democratic and responsive.  Classic examples of co-ops are farmer co-ops that increase marketing power for producers by pooling and value adding produce, and food co-ops that allow consumer groups to access bulk prices. Such complementary co-ops can interact directly, allowing a re-embedding of food systems in social and environmental realities.


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