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Co-operatives run on a business model that exists to serve the people who use their services (a consumer co-operative), who work there (a worker cooperative), or by the people who live there (a housing co-operative). The members are the owners, each with an equal say in what the co-operative does.

Co-operatives are based on seven principles:

  1. Voluntary and open membership:
  2. Democratic member control;
  3. Member economic participation. Members allocate surpluses for any of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership;
  4. Autonomy and independence. If a co-op enters into an agreement with another organisation, including a government, they do so in such a way as to preserve their autonomy and the member's democratic control;
  5. Education, training and information. Co-operatives provide education and training for all who contribute to the development of the co-operative. They inform the general public about the nature and benefits of co-operation;
  6. Co-operation among co-operatives;
  7. Concern for community.