Cooperatives are businesses that are owned and governed by members – the people who use the services of the cooperative – rather than shareholders. Profits are reinvested in the cooperative or redistributed to members.
Cooperatives are governed by seven cooperative principles that guide how the business is run and how decisions are made.
There are nearly 30,000 cooperatives in the United States, with more than 100 million members, according to the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA).
The Illinois Cooperative Development Center helps cooperatives and other businesses in rural Illinois start up and succeed, through technical assistance, training, and publications. Assistance is delivered through a combination of Center staff, partner cooperative development agencies, and paid consultants, and is available free of charge. Cooperatives in all sectors are eligible for assistance, though the Center has particular expertise in value-added and sustainable agriculture, local foods, and renewable energy. ICDC is a program of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at Western Illinois University.