A cooperative, or co-op, is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet a common economic, social, and cultural need or aspiration. The persons involved accomplish this through a jointly-owned and democratically controlled enterprise or business.

If operated well, a cooperative might look very similar to any other type of corporation to an outsider. For example, if you were to visit a grocery store cooperative, it is very likely that it will look like any other grocery store. There will be aisles full of food and checkout registers where people can make their purchases. But cooperatives are created by people who have a specific need and who are willing to work together to operate and organize a company that will meet that need.

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