Conclusion to the Exhibit

A Bit More about Co-operatives

What is a co-operative?

A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

How are co-operatives different?

Co-operatives are enterprises that put people at the centre of their business, not capital. Co-operatives are business enterprises and can be defined in terms of three basic interests: ownership, control, and beneficiary. Only in the co-operative enterprise are all three interests vested directly in the hands of the user.

Images courtesy Mark Kmill, Marie Prebushewski, Canadian Co-operative Association, and International Labour Organization [top]

Are There Different Types of Co-operatives?


The co-operative model of enterprise can be applied to any business activity. Co-ops exist in traditional economic sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, consumer and financial services, housing, and production. But co-operative activity also spans a large number of other sectors and activities including car-sharing, child-care, health and social care, funeral, orchestras, schools, sports, tourism, utilities (electricity, water, gas), and transport (taxis, buses).


Images courtesy Colin Anderson, SEED Winnipeg Inc., and Saskatchewan Co-operative Association [top]

Are Co-ops of Any Significance?

The co-operative movement brings together more than 800 million people around the world. The United Nations estimated in 1994 that the livelihood of nearly 3 billion people, or half of the world’s population, was made secure by co-operative enterprises. These enterprises continue to play significant economic and social roles in their communities.

Co-operatives provide 100 million jobs worldwide, 20 percent more than multinational enterprises.

In 2008, the world’s 300 largest co-operatives alone were responsible for an aggregate turnover of US$1.1 trillion. That is about the size of Canada’s entire economy.

Country People in Co-ops
Argentina 9.1 million
Brazil 5.7 million
Canada 1 in 3 people
China 180 million
Honduras 1 in 3 people
India 236 million
Kenya 1 in 5 people
Malaysia 5.4 million
Norway 1 in 3 people
Singapore 1.4 million
United Kingdom 9.8 million
United States 1 in 4 people

The United Nations has proclaimed 2012 the Year of Co-operatives.

Information on this panel is from the International Co-operative Alliance website [top]

The Centre for the Study of Co-operatives

Expanding Your Horizons

Why study co-operatives?

While co-operatives and credit unions are significant and important economic enterprises throughout Canada and around the world, they are often not well understood. The Centre for the Study of Co-operatives was established to examine the role and operation of co-operatives, to publish that research, and to share it by developing and teaching university courses. We welcome scholars from every field of study to create a truly interdisciplinary base for sharing insights into the role and impact of co-operative organizations.

In 2010, the centre celebrated its 25th year of research excellence and success! [top]

Partners and Sponsors

We Couldn’t Have Done It Alone

In the true spirit of co-operation, this exhibition is the product of the combined efforts of many people, organizations, and communities. While it is impossible to list everyone, it is important to recognize the valuable contributions from the following:

We would also like to acknowledge the generous support provided by the following sponsors:

Finally …  This exhibition is about the hopes and dreams of people and their communities. We are enormously grateful for the time, effort, and patience of all those who shared their stories with us. It was a privilege to be entrusted with bringing them to you. [top]