The California Center for Cooperative Development (CCCD) is a nonprofit organization that supports cooperatives by providing technical assistance and shining a spotlight on cooperative projects that create opportunities for those in lower income communities. These projects include those that provide education on how cooperatives can stimulate economic growth and build income for underserved communities.

CCCD started as an extension program at the University of California Davis. However, due to budget cuts, the program was ended. The former members decided that they needed to form an independent nonprofit to do similar things to what was happening at the university. CCCD is also part of a larger network of centers throughout the United States, all of which are under a larger nonprofit called Cooperation Works.

The executive director of CCCD, Kim Coontz, believes that cooperatives “are a really valuable tool for people to be able to gain power and to meet their needs by joining together,” especially in these times where we’re having “increasing intensification of markets so we don’t have as much competition and we have a lot more very large corporations dominating sectors. Cooperatives offer a way for people to gain what they can’t gain individually.”

This is done quite often in the agricultural sector, where cooperatives allow producers to join together “so that they can sell their products directly rather than have to sell them to somebody else who can sell them. So, they can have a better price for their food and they can have control over what happens with their food.” People are often not aware of how common this is in this sector, for instance, when you buy Blue Diamond almonds, Sunkist oranges, or Land O’Lakes butter, you are actually supporting cooperatives.

Besides supporting the laborers, Kim also spoke about how cooperatives can also support consumer needs, such as in the case of the Davis Food Co-op, which was “established at a time when you couldn’t get natural food, you couldn’t get organic food. It was a very different kind of a market and really cooperatives led the charge in creating markets for people to be able to purchase natural foods. It still exists today, meeting the needs of the shoppers who elect a board of directors and so forth. So, you know cooperatives are really a needed option in the marketplace.”

Local cooperatives

The CCCD has also helped to start a number of cooperatives in addition to helping support ones already in existence. One of these is Yolo Eco Clean Cooperative, a cleaning service that uses all natural ingredients for the benefit of not only the workers who have to come in contact with them on a regular basis, but for the customers who are getting their homes cleaned.

“A lot of people don’t realize cleaning products are quite toxic, especially to the people that use them every day – the workers – but also in your home, they’re pretty strong chemicals so they use natural products. It’s good for them and good for the people that they work for including pets.” Another cooperative they’ve helped to start is Co-op Home Care, which “provides home support services for the elderly in their home.”

Cooperatives exist within the communities they help. With worker co-ops “the members and the decision makers are the workers and so they are creating a work environment that is best for them and is best for their clients. There’s a sort of mutual relationship there.”

Check out the California Center for Cooperative Development (CCCD) located at 979 F Street Suite A in Davis, if you’re interested in more information or assistance in creating a co-op!

What is a cooperative?

A cooperative is a business model where the business is operated and owned by its members. Profits from the business are then distributed amongst the members, incentivizing members to work together to make sure the cooperative does well.

Cooperative principles

The principles by which cooperatives operate are more than just values for them to follow, they’re what distinguishes cooperatives from other models of business. These principles are also recognized at both the state and federal level as criteria for a business to be labeled as a cooperative.

User benefits principles

Being a member of a cooperative grants you access to services and benefits that would not be available to you if you were not a member.

User owner principle

Those who use the cooperative also own it.

User control principle

As all members are also owners, they also have a say in what happens to the business. Each member has an equal say in decisions made by the cooperative, unlike in a traditional corporation where the stakeholder with the most shares has the most sway in the company. Cooperatives can also elect a board of directors through a vote.

Types of cooperatives

Cooperatives are often created because members of a community recognize that they have a specific need and want to organize in order to address this need. Some needs include the need for childcare, housing, or food.

Agricultural Cooperatives

Agricultural cooperatives are formed by farmers to help them gain market power to do things such as market their crops, bargain, and to purchase supplies and services. In the United States, the most common agricultural cooperatives are marketing, supply, and service ones. Marketing cooperatives are involved in the entire process of selling goods in both foreign and domestic markets, including assembling and packaging. Supply cooperatives allow members to purchase supplies and services at a better rate than if they were to purchase them as an individual. Service cooperatives provide members with specialized services that would be difficult to obtain as a single farmer.

Artisan cooperatives

Artisan cooperatives benefit artists of all types by giving them the market power to obtain supplies at a discounted rate, marketing advantages, share studio space, and maintain artistic control over their work.

Business Cooperatives

Business cooperatives can also be called Shared Services or Marketing cooperatives. They help professionals of all types, including hairdressers, therapists, and attorneys by reducing overhead costs, helping them to maintain control of their practice, and allowing them to obtain supplies at a lower price through joint purchasing.

Childcare Cooperatives

Childcare and preschool cooperatives can be formed using an Employer Assisted model, Babysitting model, or Parent model. With employer assisted childcare, parents are often on or near the worksite, and the employers are the members of the cooperative that join together to provide childcare to their employees. In the babysitting model, parents equitably offer babysitting services for short term trips or nights out. This model is often more informal than the other two. The parent model is where the parents elect a board of directors and volunteer their hours to the cooperative.

Financial Cooperatives

Also referred to as a credit union, Financial cooperatives organize to give financial benefits to their members through competitive rates for loans and encouraging savings.

Food Cooperatives

Though typically their members are consumers, Food cooperatives can also be worker-owned, and are formed to gain control and better pricing on the type and quality of their food products.

Worker Cooperatives

Worker cooperatives are owned and managed by theworkers of a particular business. While providing steady employment and income, these cooperatives also allow workers to participate in the ownership of a business and share in the profits generated by the organization.