What Are Co-ops All About?

The word “cooperative” is similar to “cooperation,” meaning people working together and mutually benefiting one another and the larger community. That’s the essence of the cooperative spirit, and co-ops exist for one reason: to serve their members.

Not only have cooperatives been formed to sell electricity, produce and flowers, but there are also co-ops that offer financial and banking services, provide housing and health care, and so much more.

The first successful U.S. cooperative was organized in 1752 when Benjamin Franklin formed the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire — the nation’s oldest continuing cooperative.

Electric cooperatives began because investor-owned utilities did not find it cost effective to string power lines into rural areas to provide electricity in the 1930s. There was more money to be made in populated areas, and back then, only one in 10 rural homes had electricity.

Co-ops are independent and community-focused, not tied to the demands or purse strings of corporate investors. Co-ops help drive local economic development, fund scholarships, support local charities and work to make life better in the areas they serve — and that’s the heart of the cooperative difference.