5 misconceptions about the cooperative model

The list of youth coop projects is long—just take the Coopsco network, youth service coops or student caisses, for instance. Yet despite the popularity of cooperatives, some parents are still hesitant to encourage their kids to get involved in cooperative entrepreneurship. But why is that?

Here, we dispel 5 common misconceptions about coops.

1. Coops aren't supposed to be profitable.

False. A coop isn't a non-profit organization. A coop means that people have chosen to work together toward a common goal of building up either profits or savings.

The big difference with a cooperative is in how profits are allocated:

  • One part is distributed to members in the form of dividends, based on the extent to which they use the coop's services.
  • One part is used to improve services for members and secure the coop's long term viability.
  • One part supports key initiatives.

2. The cooperative model is for those who don't have the money to start up their business.

False. The cooperative model is, first and foremost, a framework for sharing—that is, sharing expertise, the investment, the risk, and the coop's success or failure—as a means of fulfilling collective needs and aspirations. The cooperative is a business type that has proven effective around the globe and is considered an exceptional springboard for entrepreneurs in the making. Coops teach young people about democracy, individual and collective accountability, reciprocity and decision-making.

3. Coops only help the underprivileged.

False. Cooperatives exist in every business sector:

  • Financial services and insurance (Desjardins, La Capitale, SSQ, Promutuel, Co-operators)
  • Education (school cooperatives, Maisons familiales rurales)
  • Agriculture (Coop fédérée)
  • Food and drink (microbreweries, cafés, bistros, fine food stores)
  • Housing
  • Food production (Agropur, Citadelle)
  • Forestry
  • Services (taxis, food services, in-home services)
  • Health (paramedics, health cooperatives)
  • Telecom (radio, newspapers, cable companies)
  • Funeral services
  • Arts and culture (video production companies, coffee houses)
  • And more

4. Coops give preferential treatment to their employees.

False. Cooperative values include honesty, equality and equity. Giving special privileges to some and not others is simply not part of the cooperative vision, and operating that way could create injustices for members and workers.

5. Coops last because of government funding.

False. Being a cooperative does not mean the business lacks ingenuity or a competitive edge. On the contrary! Like any other business, to be successful, a cooperative has to offer goods and services of value. In order to do that, it has to be dynamic, competitive and innovative.

Studies also show that cooperative enterprises fare better during crises and their survival rates exceed those of conventional businesses (62% versus 35% after 5 years in business, and 44% versus 20% after 10).

To do with children

Discover our educational activities about cooperation and entrepreneurship: