What is a co-operative?

A co-operative is any organisation owned and controlled by the people in it, run democratically, set up to meet the shared economic, social and/or cultural needs and aspirations of the people in the co-op.

Find out more here

What’s a community business?

Community Businesses come in many shapes and sizes. They may or may not be co-ops.

The defining feature is a Community Businesses is set up and run by people within a community, with the purpose of supporting or helping their community in some way.

Most often it’s a geographical community of people living in one area; but it can be a ‘community of interest’, a group of people with shared concerns or goals.

Community Businesses set up as Community Benefit Societies, can make community share offers. Find out more here: Community Shares Scotland.

What’s the difference between a co-op and a social enterprise?

A co-operative is a business or organisation that is democratically controlled and owned by its members and works in the interest of its members.

A social enterprise is a business with a social mission, working in the interest of a community or client group.

A co-op can be a social enterprise, and a social enterprise can be co-op, they’re not mutually exclusive. The difference is that a co-operative must always be democratic and benefit all its members; while a social enterprise can be run in hierarchical way, but must benefit a specified community of interest.

What’s the difference between a co-op and a community business?

Some co-operatives are set up specifically to benefit their members, whereas community businesses are set up to benefit anyone in the community, whether they are part of the community business or not.

Can a ‘normal’ business become a co-op?

Yes! Depending on what kind of business type you are, it can be very straightforward.

If you’re considering converting your business to become a co-op, there are two key aspects to think about:

  • changing the legal form your business takes, and
  • making the cultural shift to more democratic working practices – the magic fairy dust that makes co-operatives famously resilient and great to work in.