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Release Date: February 16, 2017

“We are stronger together,” says Joy Emmanuel, co-operative expert and Continuing Education instructor at Camosun, on one of the many benefits of being involved in a co-op business.

Emmanuel’s instantly contagious passion for the co-operative movement has motivated her to share her knowledge and expertise with others.

“One of the wonderful benefits of co-operatives is that you’re not on your own,” she says. “When you come together with others to form your new co-op, there is a whole movement out there that is saying ‘Hey, we’re here to support you!’ It’s like becoming part of a family!”

Like other business ventures, a co-operative business is a legal entity that must be financially viable to succeed. But rather than being profit-driven, co-operatives are value-based, democratic enterprises. Co-ops have at their core, several guiding principles that set them apart from traditional businesses, including mutual support and self-help.

“A co-op is an entity of shared responsibilities and benefits,” explains Emmanuel. “For example, you could have a workers’ co-op where everybody is a member and is going to work in the co-operative directly. They’re going to financially benefit from it and they’re going to be involved in many different aspects and decisions of running the business.”

There are many different types of co-ops, each with a particular vision and purpose. For example, housing co-ops can provide higher quality, lower priced housing for their members, while marketing co-ops allow groups to promote their products or services together, increasing advertising quality and simultaneously reducing cost.

“There are so many ways that the co-operative model has been adapted. You could go from the cradle to the grave and give examples of different ways co-operatives have been adapted to meet people’s needs,” Emmanuel points out, citing an estimate that connects over one billion people on the planet to at least one co-operative.

In her course, Emmanuel covers everything from forming the initial group to feasibility and financing, and she prides herself on tailoring the material to her students. “I think it’s a great way for people to really get a better understanding of the co-operative model and test out their ideas,” she says.

Are you interested in starting or improving your own co-op? Register for the Starting a Co-operative Business CE course.

Joy Emmanuel in Asia after the 2004 tsunami.
Joy Emmanuel (third from left) visited with co-ops in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, after the 2004 tsunami to learn how they were helping rebuild the community.

Last updated: February 20, 2017 11:35 am

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