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Hopefully this will become a glossary of co-op terms for people to reference back to. Please use the same structure.


Annual General Meeting (AGM)
A group of people who work together in a single organisation for a group purpose


Board of Directors


Beechwood College

Leeds based college set up by the Industrial Common Ownership Movement (ICOM) before becoming independent. Beechwood College acted as a training and conference venue for worker co-operatives and CDAs in the 1980s.


Capital (also see 'common capital')
[definition of the word]...

Community Benefit Society

The purpose of a community benefit society is to serve the broader interests of the community, in contrast to co-operative societies that serve the interests of members. The FCA registration guidance acknowledges that a community benefit society might define the community it serves, but this should not inhibit the benefit to the community at large, in other words, community benefit should not be restricted to members only. See Community Shares website.

Charitable Community Benefit Society

[definition of the word] e.g. Friends of Stretford Hall
Community Development Funding Institution (CDFI)
Funding bodies dedicated to delivering responsible, affordable lending to help low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged people and communities and enable them to participate in the economy as a whole.

Common Capital

This is capital that is built up over time, cannot be shared out between members ('disinterested distribution') and is recycled back into the co-operative economy through surplus distributions or if a co-operative is dissolved.

Common Ownership

As with other worker co-ops, only the workers in a common ownership agreement can be members and membership is open to all the workers in the co-operative. The distinction is that, if the co-operative closes, the assets are distributed to another common ownership rather than the individual members.

Community Share Issue

A way for a co-operative, that has been formed into a legally recognised 'society', to raise funds from their members Those who buy community shares in a community business or community benefit society are expecting that business to benefit their community in some way. People who buy community shares can also apply for their money back if it does not impact the society and their community in they expected. This means most people buy community shares to support a community purpose and not to make a financial gain on their shares.

Companies Act

The legal framework for companies. A co-operative can be set up under this Act as a 'company limited by guarantee' which does not have a share capital but instead has limited liability for its directors/members.

Consumer Co-operative
[definition of the word]
Co-operative (Co-operation)
A 'co-operative', in the context of the economy, is a business model created by producers, workers, consumers, suppliers, investors who are brought together through voluntary 'membership' for a fairer, more democratic way to run businesses. The International Co-operative Alliance defines a co-operative as: " autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise."
With a rise in co-operatives from the 1800s onwards, these organisations were creating goods and services, employment, longer-term stability and fairer conditions for the many and not just the elite wealthy traders. In a traditional 'limited' company (where limits are set on who benefits and who bears the risk from a company's success or failure) the 'bosses' or other shareholders decide who will benefit from the profits or sale of a company. In a co-operative - where producers, workers, consumers, suppliers, shareholders (otherwise can be known as 'members'), are the business owners - the selling of a co-op for profit is not part of its values system. Instead the 'safeguarding' and 'sustainability' of the organisation - also saving the owners' jobs, products and services - becomes a priority in the varied models of co-operatives.
This is still very much in play today. So why do co-operatives work? They're based around a famous set of 'principles' or values which creates a culture of loyal, dependable, open, longer-term set of relationships between members of these organisations that are created mostly for the need and not just for profit. Creating profit or surplus in a co-operative is not frowned upon it is the unequal distribution of them that is. This changes the business rhetoric from potential panic sell-off, when things get tight, to a rhetoric that maintains the longer-term approach even during the worst recessions. Stakeholders establish democratic rights from the start and so co-operatives create structured and democratic meetings which, in turn, create strategic 'resolutions'. These are generally set in place from the start to ensure a co-ops viability for the longer term. When the rhetoric is more certain, and workers and members own what they are trying to keep afloat, then they can be legitimately called upon for the solutions. This includes finding new sources of capital. As owners this means many might vote to deduct cash from their wages or from their own pocket in order to save the co-operative (and their jobs) for the longer-term. Members are therefore in control of the longer-term business growth not for the eventual sale of the company but to genuinely keep the business afloat for all, in some cases, in perpetuity.
Limited businesses, even charities, might choose to approach their workforce when they're in greater need and may even expect greater loyalty, sometimes amid a mass of redundancies! At best, this would be counter-intuitive to the worker and, whether they work hard or not, the business plea can be on precarious ground when a workforce is not in control of the organisation. A co-operative workforce has a longer-term strategy from the start, in the middle and all the way through because everyone owns the organisation as a workforce. A co-operative workforce might make the difficult vote to lower their own wages because there is a certainty that keeping the business afloat is actually the number one priority.
In other organisation models, wealthier CEOs and directors have a much more difficult task persuading their less well-off workers that saving where they work is for the eventual benefit of the workers' jobs. Mistrust can set in when a CEO believes the workers won't stay loyal through a tricky spot for lower pay and the workers may bail out if they sense a sinking ship or believe the CEO is looking for an exit strategy without them. In a co-operative the 'CEO' is the co-operative itself; unable to think for itself it exists only by a collective belief held by all its stakeholders or members. Almost all co-operatives are set up to stay 'up'. Therefore maintaining a co-operative's collective belief creates an extraordinarily unique platform for greater sustainability. Longevity is a characteristic of co-operatives. A co-operative is unlikely to close and relocate to find lower wages in a different country, not if its workers have a say (and a vote) in how it is run. Where traditional businesses consider shareholder value first, a co-operative does not need to get swayed by shareholders rogue values and relocate, or compromise on quality to reduce costs. A worker wants to work well and wants everyone to get a wage for it, therefore worker owners make decisions based on that premise first. Any sniff of someone 'in it for themselves' then the co-operative values system closes in just enough to oust a rogue treasure-seeker. Longevity is the treasure and not just more and more profits.
Co-operatives are unique to their location, environment and their members. A small co-operative in an emerging country, for example, might be operating under a 'credit union' model and provides business ownership for communities even in poverty. Coming together, and pooling what you do have, gives the means for one person to begin a market stall, for example. As everyone keeps giving into the pot (including the market stall holder) then a second individual creates a market stall, then a third and so on. The credit union creates the means for an individual's trade which is supported and buoyed by a collective group of people of which that individual is also a part. Not just for emerging countries, this model could radicalise areas of large unemployment, poverty and even homelessness in any country in the world. Co-operation is not just for the poor however. It is for the many, in all their colours, and has a set of principles that means it safeguards itself from the abuse of an elite few.

Co-operative College

An educational charity based in Manchester. Dedicated to the education and promotion of co-operative values, ideas and principles within co-operatives, communities and societies.

Co-operative and Community Finance (ICOF)

The current trading name of ICOF (see ICOF). Lends funds to those which practice or support the principles of co-operation, social ownership, and sustainable development.
Co-operative consortium
[definition of the word]

Co-operative Development Agency (CDA, also Co-operative Development Body)

Co-op development agencies deliver co-op business advice and help set up other co-operatives based on their knowledge and experience. We have about 30 in Co-op UK's membership

Co-operatives Research Unit (CRU)

Based at the Open University in Milton Keynes the CRU has nearly 30 years of experience in research, training, consultancy, and publications related to co-operatives, social enterprise and other organisations in the social economy.


Traditionally in a co-operative dividends are paid out to whoever becomes a member of the business - this could be workers or consumers - depending on how the co-operative is set up. The simplest example of 'divvies' comes from the days of the Rochdale Pioneers founding shop. At today's prices a customer, or member, buys purer butter for £2 for example. The co-operative shop would know their mark-up on that product and, by the rules of co-operation and because they have declared it within their governing documents, they will put aside a portion of that mark-up, say 5p, for that customer. Traditionally this would be physically held in a customer's own 'divvy' pigeon hole held at the shop. A customer who keeps buying butter will build up 5p each time they shop. When it comes to 'divvy day' that customer collects back their harvested dividends or invests it back in the business. It is this philosophy which allowed co-operatives to grow from the background of Victorian poverty to fully-capitalised businesses. These co-ops were uniquely capitalised by the workers, or the consumers, and not by shareholders or directors and is still in operation today. Not all co-operatives trade in this way today though many would nod to it by putting it to a vote to all members how best to use surplus profits. This democratic approach to how to use the profits is a foundational element to co-operation.:The difference between how a co-operative distributes dividends and how a non-co-operative businesses, run by one owner or a small group or owners, a 'dividend' is a cash withdrawal of a portion of business surplus (profits) that the owner will take for themselves or their senior directors. The owner can arbitrarily decide who benefits from a dividend; this usually is given to higher management or those they deem having 'performed' better than others. In a larger business with shareholders it is the shareholders who can benefit however it is generally agreed the shareholder's investment is used to keep growing the business so they can sell their 'share' off at a later stage at a higher rate based on the success of the business. However, what a co-operative reveals is the workers - who are diligently and quietly keeping that same business afloat - are almost always overlooked when it comes to the distribution dividends.


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Gig Economy
Similar to 'precarious' work. Often people who are self-employed, on zero contracts, doing piece-work or 'gigs' and being exploited through low pay, no worker rights, limited promotion or holidays. These allegedly include taxi drivers booked via the online Uber platform, food delivery cyclists booked via Deliveroo and Just Eat and so on. See also the 'Platform Co-operatives' definition below.


[the] Hive
[definition of the word in Coop UK context]:

Holyoake (George)
[who is he]


Industrial Common Ownership Movement (ICOM)

ICOM is the national federation for worker co-operatives set up in 1971. ICOM merged with the Co-operative Union in 2001 to become Co-operatives UK.

Industrial Common Ownership Finance (ICOF)

ICOF was set up in 1973 and grew out of ICOM. Originally set up to give loans to co-ops from funds contributed by individuals and more established co-ops. Now operating under the trading name Co-operative & Community Finance (CCF), loans are available to those who practice or support the principles of co-operation, social ownership, and sustainable development.

International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)

The International Co-operative Alliance was founded in London, England on 19 August 1895 during the 1st Co-operative Congress. In attendance were delegates from co-operatives from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, England, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, India, Italy, Switzerland, Serbia, and the USA. Representatives established the Alliance's aims to provide information, define and defend the Co-operative Principles and develop international trade. The ICA is the global voice of the co-operative movement.


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A moratorium on a particular activity or process is to put a stop to it, for a fixed period of time, usually as a result of an official agreement.

Mutual Enterprise

Other member owned organisations that don't comply to all the co-op principles but are fairly close, Building Societies, or employee owned business that are not fully owned by the workers.

Multi-Stakeholder Co-operative

Other member owned organisations that don't comply to all the co-op principles but are fairly close, Building Societies, or employee owned business that are not fully owned by the workers.


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Platform Co-operatives

A platform co‑op is a digital platform designed to provide a service or sell a product that is collectively owned and governed by the people who depend on and participate in it. Co-ops that bring 'producers' and customers together and the co-op acts as the digital platform in the middle. Examples include EqualCare, SignCo and more.

Precarious Workers

Similar to the 'gig economy' (see above) where workers are exploited on zero contracts with very few or no workers' rights.

Principles of Co-operation (Seven Co-op Principles)

[list them]

Productive Co-operatives

The traditional form of the worker co-operative. Over 200 existed at the turn of the 20th century, however fell into decline in the mid-20th century. Many included in their rules: open membership, democratic control, limited interest on capital, and a distributed surplus or dividend which could be used in relation to wages. Within these the degree of workers' control varied.Outside shareholders as well as workers had a vote in affairs.


The smallest number of people needed and present at a meeting before it can officially begin and before official decisions can be taken. Wer recommend this is usually around 5 per cent of your recorded membership numbers.


Raised by 'subscription'

Another way of saying raising members' capital. See also 'community share issue'.


Secondary Co-operative

[definition of the word]

Secretary General

[definition of the word]

Shared Ownership (see also Common Ownership)

Not placing ownership as a percentage of the business nor sharing among individuals [more here]

Society (see consumer retail societies , retail societies, partner members)

[definition of the word]
Stakeholder (see also Multi-stakeholder)
definition of the word

Subscription (as in 'raised by subscription')

Another way of saying raised by members' capital. Also called a 'community share issue'.


The preferred word to 'profits' in the co-operative movement generally. This is to get away from the standard way profits are understood to be used in traditional companies as decided by the main owners and directors. Because profits are often decided by a small group in a traditional company, human instinct can often ring fence those profits as dividends for themselves. Whereas 'surplus' denotes it is the organisation's stakeholders (for example, an entire workforce) who will agree how to use the surplus (and usually it is for the sustainability of the organisation).


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Values and Principles of a Co-operative


Worker's Co-operative
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