Today marks the last day of co-op week, a time to reflect on the success of the co-op model in today’s society. It is important to celebrate this success because, unlike other business models, co-operative enterprises provide benefits to a wider group of stakeholders. Traditionally, co-ops were formed to meet a community need, however today they are thriving businesses competing in many industries.
Many co-ops compete shoulder-to-shoulder with ‘traditional’ businesses and, on the outside, they may appear to be just like any other business. The key difference, however, it in the very DNA of the co-operative model. Co-ops have a mandate to improve the lives of people and the communities in which they live while delivering a good or service. The co-op model also provides ownership in the business so the very users of the service can influence the strategic direction of the organization.
One of the most common misconceptions about co-operatives is that they are all non-profits. While there are many non-profit, community services co-ops out there (our own Growing Our Future Childcare Co-op is one example), many co-ops are thriving businesses that must focus on sustainable profit. The difference with co-ops is in what they DO with the profit. Co-ops are ‘profit for purpose’ organizations and they have mandates that their profits must serve the greater good of their stakeholders in line with the seven co-operative principles.
Imagine for a moment, a banking system where people would be provided the best advice, competitive pricing, access to all the products and services they need, AND that organization would in return help your community through donations, leadership and volunteerism. To even add more value, imagine that if that banking institution at the end of the year recorded surplus earnings, you would receive a portion of that surplus back. Also imagine that if you didn’t like some of the activities that the business was doing, you could voice your concerns and the entity would actually listen.
I’m happy to tell you that this “unicorn” bank actually exists; it’s a credit union. In Canada, there are 1,173 credit union locations representing $260 Billion in assets serving 5.88 million members. In Newfoundland and Labrador, there are 62,000 members of credit unions.
The co-op model works. And not only do we need more co-ops in this province, we also need more people to support the existing co-ops and credit unions so more good can be done. Here at Leading Edge Credit Union, we encourage members to continue to recruit friends and family to become members of the credit union and share in our success. We will continue as a financial co-operative to provide members honest advice while working towards ways to improve our communities. The support that each member provides by continuing to do more business with the credit union further cycles the benefits back to members and their communities.
Happy Co-op Week, everyone!