This October, the Monadnock Food Co-op and communities across the country are celebrating Co-op Month — a time to recognize the benefits and values that co-operatives bring to their members and communities. The theme this year, “Live Co-operatively,” invites people to explore the many ways that co-ops improve lives and impact both the national and local economy.
“In this economy, people are hungry for alternatives,” said Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association and board member of the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA). “Co-ops and credit unions offer a successful business model that is also rooted in our communities. When we choose to ‘live co-operatively,’ we are building a more participatory, sustainable and resilient economy.”
Around the world, an estimated 1 billion people are members of co-ops — more than directly own stock in publicly traded corporations. And according to the NCBA, co-ops have a dramatic impact on the national economy:
- There are 30,000 co-ops and credit unions in the U.S., serving 1 in every 3 Americans;
- Co-ops operate in every industry of the economy, from food co-ops to farmer co-ops, worker co-ops to credit unions, housing co-ops to healthcare, and insurance to energy and utilities.
Co-ops are also important to local economies. “Here in Keene, our co-op is already making a difference in our local economy; purchasing from local farmers, creating jobs, paying good wages and benefits to our staff, bringing more healthy food choices to our community and meeting their needs,” said Michael Faber, General Manager of the Monadnock Food Co-op. “Region wide our impact has been huge.”
The Monadnock Food Co-op is a member of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), a network of over 30 food co-ops and start-up initiatives, locally owned by more than 94,000 people. Together, these co-ops have $225 million in annual revenue, employ over 1,500 people, and purchase more than $30 million in local products each year.
While co-ops operate in many industries and sectors of the economy, they are guided by shared values and principles including democracy, social responsibility, and concern for community. The impact of co-ops around the world led the United Nations to declare 2012 the International Year of Co-ops.
“Co-operatives are arguably the single most successful initiative for taking people out of poverty with dignity that the world has ever seen,” said Dame Pauline Green, president of the International Co-operative Alliance. “What’s more it is a business model that puts people at center of the economic model, rather than at its mercy.”