Types of Cooperatives

Service Cooperatives

  • Service cooperatives provide services to their members, and are owned and controlled by the users of those services. They range in size, meaning they can include both ‘small’ care centres and ‘large’ housing cooperatives. They may provide transportation services, housing services, electricity services, gas and energy services, funeral services, health care services, nursery services, and more. They include, but are not limited to:\

Recreation Cooperatives

  • A recreation cooperative provides recreation services, either on a consumer-basis, where users-members share ownership and access to recreational amenities (i.e. pools, gyms, saunas…), or on a producer-basis, whereby member-users share ownerships of the cooperative, but offer recreational services to the general public by making them available for a nominal/membership fee.

Religious Cooperatives

  • Religious cooperatives provide members of a particular religious group/family the opportunity to collectivise funds and expertise as a means of offering religious services (i.e. mass, sermons, prayers…) to their members and/or to the public. Alternatively, they may be a collective of members sharing/aligned with a particular religious belief system dedicated to supporting cooperative activity on a social, economic, or political level.

Housing Cooperatives

  • Housing cooperatives are organizations developed to resolve a community’s housing needs. These cooperatives are member-controlled properties, home, and/or housing facilities, meaning that its members are responsible for managing, maintaining, and operating the cooperative property, and sharing its costs.

  • Shared ownership and duties translates to more affordable housing costs, and each member of the cooperative may vote on housing related-decisions (i.e. repairs, new members, events/activities, duties…) and every year, members gather together to elect a Board of Directors. At the Annual General Meeting (AGM), members of the cooperative vote on a budget, and if membership fees (rent equivalent) are expected to increase, they will reflect true costs and not profit margins.

Rural Electric Cooperatives

    • Rural Electric Cooperatives are member-user owned organizations established to provide electricity to their members (all of which reside in rural areas). This organization purchases its power wholesale and delivers it at-cost to its members. This is a kind of distribution cooperative responsible for building and maintaining electric lines, for purchasing electricity to meet members' demands, and for billing and providing information related to the cooperatives function/organization.

Rural Telephone Cooperatives

    • Rural telephone cooperatives are distribution cooperatives that provide telephone services to its members, and govern themselves in accordance with the Rochdale principles. This type of cooperative was first developed in rural areas mostly to fill in the service gaps left by private companies; which found rural telephone service not to be very profitable. Like rural electric cooperative, rural telephone cooperative build and/or maintain data lines, and provide local and long distance telephone exchange services, direct broadcast satellite, wireless phone services, television exchange services, mobile radios, cellular and key systems, and internet access.

Producer Cooperatives

  • Producer cooperatives provide supply chain services necessary for their members’ economic/entrepreneurial activities. Producer cooperatives are a vast and diverse segment; some can market, or market and process goods and services produced by their members. Others produce, add value, or create pools of resources for its member-users. No matter the type, they are member-controlled and operate under the principles of cooperation.

Producers cooperatives may include:

  1. Agricultural Processing Cooperatives

  2. Marketing Cooperatives

  3. Farm Supply Cooperatives

  4. Feedlot Cooperatives

  5. Pasture Cooperatives

  6. Equipment Cooperatives

  7. Seed Cleaning Cooperatives

  8. Arts and Crafts Cooperatives

  9. Taxi Industry Cooperatives

  10. Government Procurement Cooperatives

  11. Fishery Cooperatives

Worker Cooperatives/Collectives

  • Worker cooperatives are businesses/enterprises owned and controlled by its members. They are created to provide members with work through a collectively-owned organization. These cooperatives can be run on a day-to-day basis by managers and a board of directors, however decision-making in worker cooperatives ultimately falls on the worker-owners who all have one vote.

  • Worker cooperatives are designed to meet the needs of workers first, as opposed to maximizing profits in the short run; any surplus (after accounting for expenses) would be distributed amongst members (i.e. in the form of dividends) or reinvested into the firm itself (i.e. non-profits). They operate mainly in the small and/or medium enterprise sector, and are owned by worker-members.

  • The sectors within which we can find worker coops include: agri-food, natural food, arts and entertainment, manufacture and sale of clothing, communications and marketing, construction and renovation, education, forestry, printing and publishing, industrial production and manufacturing, ambulance services , business services, home care and nursing services, and more.

Worker Shareholder Co-operatives

    • Worker cooperatives are formed to acquire voting-share within the corporations that employ them. They are unique in that they are cooperatives that operate within both public and private enterprises.

Retail/Consumer Cooperatives

  • A retail cooperative is a consumer cooperative that is engaged in retail of goods or services for the own benefit of their members. They are owned by the consumers themselves and they can range from small purchasing groups to large supermarkets. A key distinguishing factor that separates consumer cooperatives from other retailers is that they are created to meet the needs of the member-owner in terms of type of product, quality and price. Furthermore, they are not focused on maximizing profit, but rather providing products at the lowest price possible. Retail/consumer cooperative include:

Food Cooperative

    • Is an organization owned and operated by its members and committed to consumer education, service product quality, truth in advertising and democratic control. It provides goods and services at a lower price to an open audience (not only limited to members). However benefits of being a member include a voice in co-op policy, discounts or rebates for patronage and other specialized services.

Buying Club Cooperative

    • A buying club is formed by a small group of individuals who, together, purchase goods and services from a wholesaler for their own needs. They govern themselves according to Rochdale principles and its members typically share in the labour involved. This type of organization is usually a temporary solution to becoming a full-fledged cooperative.

New Wave Cooperative

    • This term describes most consumer cooperatives and buying clubs started in the late 1960's and early 1970's by anti-war and alternative society activists. These co-ops were originally designed for self-empowerment and later for economic reasons; they usually featured an emphasis on alternative diets.

Financial Cooperatives

  • Financial cooperatives offer financial, loan or investment services, and insurance services to their members. They are owned by user members or by subscribers to insurance.

Examples of financial cooperative include:

Credit Unions

    • A credit union is an organization that provides financial services to its members (personal loans, checking accounts, etc.) and is governed by a member-elected Board of Directors under the principles of one-member one-vote. Typically, a credit union consists of members of the same group, club, union, or institution.

Cooperative Bank

    • A cooperative bank operates quite similarly to credit unions - many banks and financial institutions operate as/similar to Cooperative Banks - meaning they are a financial organization owned cooperatively or formed to loan primarily to cooperatives. What differentiates cooperative banks from, for example, private banking institutions is how the bank is owned. Like cooperative banks, private banks offer shares to its members, however private banks may be owned by a single proprietor, two-or more proprietors, or a concentrated/limited number of shareholders.

Cooperative Insurance

    • Refers to insurance obtained by combining the economic forces of the member-owners for the purposes of obtaining the most beneficial services and rates.

Multi-Stakeholder Cooperatives

  • Multi-stakeholder cooperatives are organizations that include more than one membership group united by a common interest and/or goal. They bring together, for example, consumer cooperatives, producer cooperatives, and marketing cooperatives to achieve a shared goal (i.e. the production, distribution, and promotion of a product/service). This type of co-op is usually found in health, home care and other social enterprises.

Some examples include:

Child Care Cooperative

        • A childcare co-op is an organization consisting of groups of families who jointly provide child care services to members of the organization. Three models have been developed for this type of cooperative:

        • Parent Model: composed of parents who have formed a co-op to provide quality care for their children.

        • Employee Model: childcare facilities within, for example, women's work sites owned and operated by the employees.

        • Consortium Model: consists of a group of employers or organizations to be owned and utilized by their combined employee groups.


        • Some food cooperatives are formed by consumer and producer members in order to have access to a wider variety of supplies.