The easiest way to think about how a cooperative differs from a typical business is that in a cooperative, people own it in common and make decisions in common. There’s not an outside investor who has ultimate control over the life and work of the business. The other big reason is that cooperatives are motivated by service —to their members or to the people who do the work —and not by how much profit they can reap. Generally, people who join or form cooperatives are also interested in sustaining family businesses, fair trade, equitable community growth, and even protecting natural resources —considerations that in a profit-driven business are contradicted by the profit motive.
The biggest and most familiar co-op in Olympia is the Olympia Food Co-op. The Food Coop is a member-owned co-op managed by a collective formed by the people who work there. People join the Co-op by paying a small fee or purchasing equity, depending on their situation . Most of the other co-ops on this list are worker co-ops, formed by the individuals who produce the goods or services that the business sells. They are their own bosses, managing the organization, performing the work and shouldering the risks and rewards.
Olympia is fortunate to have the Northwest Cooperative Development Center located right here. They provide a critical introduction for anyone interested in converting to or starting a coop. Then they offer guidance, support and resources to help make that conversion or do the startup. Both Orca Books and Working Systems are working with NCDC on their transitions (see Orca Books notice on page 5.)
A random list of co-ops in Olympia
- Olympia Food Co-op and co-op workers’s collective
- New Moon Cafe
- Dumpster Values
- Capital Homecare Cooperative
- Westside Cooperative Preschool
- Eastside Cooperative Preschool
- Hidden Village—a manufactured home community
- Cascadia Research Collective (not exactly a coop)
- Orca Books—forming
- Working Systems—forming