What is a co-operative?

co-operative year 2012
Co-operatives (or “co-ops”) are legally incorporated organizations owned and controlled by their members who use their services or purchase their products. Co-ops can provide virtually any product or service, and can be either non-profit or for-profit enterprises. The co-operative sector keeps dollars circulating within the local economy, provides secure employment and is a means to revitalize and sustain healthy communities.
As its name implies, a co-operative is people coming together to meet a common need. Possessing a high degree of collective entrepreneurship, the co-operative business enterprise model is inherently ethical in its treatment of its members, employees, suppliers and the environment. Co-ops serve a range of sectors, including housing, food, worker, agriculture, service, financial, youth, aboriginal and community.  Each member has one vote, regardless of level of investment.
Like any business, co-operatives need to operate efficiently and generate surplus cash flow from operations. Most co-operatives have a triple bottom line approach including economic, social, and ecological considerations.
Adapted from http://www.ontario.coop/all_about_cooperatives/what_is_a_coop, 2012