Why set up a co-operative?

Every co-operative in the world started from the same place: a group of like minded people who identified a business need or opportunity and came together to try and fulfil it.

There are over 214 independent co-operatives in the Northern Ireland, in accordance with our most recent research. 145 are credit unions while the remaining 69 comprises well established and emerging co-operatives. Co-operatives have had a long and important history in Northern Ireland – from the credit union movement to the long established agricultural co-ops. Now there is a new wave of co-operatives forming at an increased pace. In the current economic environment, forming a co-operative can empower communities to provide much needed products and services.

Co-operatives exist to serve their members, whether they are the customers, the employees or the local community. Because they do not need to bring benefits to outside shareholders, co-operatives can focus on making sure that members get the best service. Many groups are forming co-operatives because they present a fairer, more just and ethical ay to trade. Other choose the co-operative way because it offers communities the chance to collectively ‘buy into’ a project to help develop their local area.

What’s more, these members are the owners, with an equal say in what the co-operative does. So, as well as getting the products and services they need, members shape the decisions their co-operative makes.

In the past years, Co-operative Alternatives have made great strides in energising local groups and individuals to come together and create new co-operatives in new sectors such as renewable energy. leisure and sports, community building and housing, creative industries and craft and artisan food and drink.