Cooperatives have long been a part of everyday life in Canada. According to Historica Canada, the first cooperatives in this country began to appear in the 1840s, and the first stable cooperatively owned store was developed in 1851.

That’s quite a long history. These days cooperatives can be found in nearly every facet of our economy, from clothing stores to car shares and everything in between. But what are cooperatives, and how do they factor into the work we do at WEC?

What Are Cooperatives?

Cooperatives are businesses or organizations that are owned in part by the people who use or work at those organizations. According to the Canadian Co-operative Association, all cooperatives follow these seven basic guiding principles:

  1. Voluntary and open membership
  2. Democratic member control
  3. Member economic participation
  4. Autonomy and independence
  5. Education, training, and information
  6. Co-operation among co-operatives
  7. Concern for community

These seven basic principles are interpreted differently in some cases, but for the most part they remain unchanged throughout all cooperative ventures.

Cooperatives and WEC

The Women’s Economic Council works with cooperatives on a regular basis due to their importance to the economy at large. As you might expect, we focus primarily on cooperatives that are focused on providing a service to women.

Furthermore, because cooperatives are often interested in maintaining education and training, they are excellent conduits to distribute useful information to a population.