Co-ops are any place run by its members, for its members. Instead of shareholders, there are stakeholders. For example, a housing co-op is owned run by the people who live there, a food co-op is owned run by people who buy that food and a workplace co-op is owned run by the workers. There’s no middleman making money off of people’s labours. The people who own and manage the co-op are also the ones who use it.

Co-ops are anti-hieratical and operate more horizontally. Everyone has an equal stake in the co-op and therefore has an equal say about how things are run. Some co-operatives use elected board members to make decisions but smaller co-ops just decide how things are run amongst themselves. There’s typically more control and direct involvement in smaller co-ops.

There are a million reasons to start a co-op and tons of different applications. How to organize depends on the context, size and scope of the possible co-op. This guide will cover:

Guiding principles

Decision making

What kind


Guiding principles

Co-ops at their core are about putting their values into practice. They start with dedicated, motivated and invested people. Co-ops should be open to anyone who uses the service, free of discrimination or oppression. This means anyone willing to take on responsibilities at the co-op and is up to the task should be able to be a part of it.

Before jumping into building a new co-op, consider what values would be highlighted. For example, activists who believe in creating a world free of violence and oppression might but the focus of their co-op against aggression, whereas another anarchist co-op might propose ways to rebel within the capitalist system. Values aren’t always cut and dry. Different people bring new perspectives, so decide as group which values will be showcased by the co-op.


Decision making

Direct democracy is encouraged in co-ops. Since everyone has an equal stake in it, everyone gets an equal say. This may be enacted through consensus decision making. Non-hierarchical decision making can take a lot longer than other methods, but it’s often worth it to be able to hear everyone’s concerns, ideas and queries. It helps to make more well-rounded decisions while empowering members.


What sort of co-op

Here are some excellent guides for how to organize a co-op for any situation:

How to form a worker’s co-op

How to form an artisan’s co-op

How to form a health care co-op

How to start a housing co-op

How to form a food co-op