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Unique Cooperative Impacts

Cooperative ownership can be viewed as "bottom-up" response to market imperfections, providing people the access to goods or services that they need.

Cooperatives have been organized to provide organic and local foods to consumers, counteract imbalances in market power between farmers and wholesale distributors, deliver utility services to rural households, provide basic banking services to consumers, or address problems of access in insurance markets.

As member-owned and controlled organizations, cooperatives have a broader ownership base that inherently provides a greater degree of local economic control and stability in a community. Cooperative net margins or profits return to the community, because they are proportionately distributed to patrons, not investors, on the basis of their patronage.

There are other benefits that have been associated with cooperatives. As democratically-controlled organizations that operate to meet a common need, cooperatives may provide skills or reinforce the participation in other civic activities.

The first phase of the Research on the Economic Impact of Cooperatives project examined the scope of cooperative business activity. While this is a useful starting point for assessing the role of cooperatives in the U.S. economy, it does not address the unique contributions of the cooperative form of business organization.

In an effort to identify ways that the "deeper impacts" of cooperative economic activity might be quantified, a series of competitively sourced discussion papers from the academic community was produced to generate ideas on how these impacts might be quantified.

Other Resources

Role of Cooperatives in Community Development 
UWCC Bulletin, September 2002.

Generating Progress: The Impact of New Generation Cooperatives on their Communities
USDA Research Report 177, June 2001.

Measuring the Economic Impact of Cooperatives: Results from Wisconsin
USDA Research Report 196, August 2003.

Measuring the Impact of Cooperatives in Minnesota
USDA Research Report 200, December 2003.

Healthy Food Healthy Communities: Measuring the Social and Economic Impact of Food Co-ops
National Cooperative Grocers Association

NCERA-194 Research on Cooperatives - Publications

UWCC Archives