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For the definition, typology and more, see our entry on Cooperatives.

At the P2P Foundation, we do not believe that the development of cooperatives, competing within the dominant economic system today, is a sufficient alternative, see the article: Cooperatives Are Not a Viable Strategy Against Capitalism, by Sam Gindin.

But neither do we believe we have to 'wait' for a big moment of change. Instead, we favor:

  • Open Cooperativism, which are cooperatives with structurally and legal develop commons and contribute to accumulation of commons
  • Platform Cooperativism, these are distributed mechanisms for exchange of products and services, but in which the platform and infrastructrures are commons, thus serving the accumulation of commons
  • Protocol Cooperativism: the creation of global open infrastructures that can be used by open and platform coops, creating trans-national commons infrastructures that can be adapted for local usage

See our report, Value in the Commons Economy, which explains how commons-oriented cooperativism can instantiate different regimes of value, not just compete within the current system.

A word of caution: you have to be familiar with the limitations of the cooperative model in a capitalist society, formulated as Oppenheimer’s Law of Transformation: cooperatives are a short-term means of survival, but tend towards capitalist privatization in the longer term Oppenheimer clearly formulated the prospect that as long as the macro-economic accounting system is governed by private capital calculation, no communal settlement can survive without adapting this economic model.

Our proposal for Open Cooperatives is meant as a pragmatic antidote to this deeper tendency, it recommends making 'commons creation' a legal and structural obligation for cooperatives, so that they produce common goods even as they veer towards adaptation.


Michel Bauwens:

"Peer production is about mutualizing knowledge and allowing anyone to freely aggregate his immaterial efforts to common pools of knowledge, code and design; stigmergy is the vehicle for mutual coordination of local and global collective efforts through transparency of the cooperation.

Cooperativism and other such forms are about mutualizing property and physical infrastructures, such as to allow anyone to freely aggregate their efforts to common efforts at provisioning material good and securing a livelyhood; stigmergic coordination of physical production is obtained through open book accounting and open supply chains; and a proposed peer production license can create the solidarity around the commons pools of technical knowledge need for cooperative production.

While immaterial cooperation, because of its anti-rival nature, requires a commons-based relational logic and the creation of universally accessible common pools of knowledge; material cooperation, requires mechanisms based on reciprocity and fair trade."

  • The P2P Foundation supports the emergence of Commonfare practices of social solidarity for networked workers who co-created commons and shared resources (see our special section, as well as their integration with a strengthened welfare system. In particular we support the creation of 'labor mutuals', i.e. freelance coops which already exist in the French-speaking world (Coopaname in France ; SMart in Belgium, Bigre, etc ..; see the project of AltGen in the UK).

Henry Tam on how to scale the cooperative economy

The 7 Principles of Cooperatives

  • Voluntary and Open Membership, Democratic Member Control, member Economic Participation, Autonomy and Independence, Education, Training and Information, Cooperation Among Cooperatives, and Concern for Community.

The 7 principles, based on the historical Rochdale Principles set in 1844 by the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, have been nofficially adopted by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) in 1937, and the current version reported here derives from the last revision adopted by the ICA in 1995. They can be found on the website at


  • A global history of cooperative formats: slideshow by Ed Mayo at [1]. Recommended!

* Special Issue: Affinities Journal, Vol 4, No 1 (2010): The New Cooperativism [2]

Selection of articles:

  1. The Cooperative Movement in Century 21. John Curl [3]
  2. Commons and Cooperatives. Greig de Peuter, Nick Dyer-Witheford [4]
  3. Social Centres and the New Cooperativism of the Common. Andre Pusey [5]
  4. A Buzz between Rural Cooperation and the Online Swarm. Andrew Gryf Paterson [6]

  • Shareable commisioned these articles to help educate the general public about the value of cooperatives in creating democratic societies.
  1. an interview with Chuck Gold of ICA about the Int'l Year of  the Coop:
  2. feature story about cooperatives, "Meet the New Boss: You": 


  1. Worker-Owned Cooperatives
  2. Consumer-Owned Cooperatives
  3. Housing Cooperative
  4. Credit Unions
  5. Food Cooperatives
  6. Farmer’s Cooperatives


"Born in the XIXth century, cooperatives are a large movement counting in 2015 almost 180,000 enterprises in the world, over 140 million members, more than 4,5 billion employees and more than €1,000 billion turnover. Only in Europe, there are 127 million members, meaning that 1 out of 5 people in the EU is a cooperative member, and these numbers are constantly increasing (Cooperatives Europe, 2015)." [7]


"Cooperative businesses have lower failure rates than traditional corporations and small businesses, after the first year of startup, and after 5 years in business. About 10% of cooperatives fail after the first year while 60-80% of traditional businesses fail after the first year. After 5 years, 90% of cooperatives are still in business, while only 3 - 5% of traditional businesses are still operating after 5 years." [8]


1. Did you know that [9]:

  • One billion people are members of cooperatives?
  • The 300 largest cooperatives have sales totaling more than $1 trillion per year?
  • Cooperative enterprises employ 100 million people worldwide, 20 percent more than multinational enterprises? [10]

2. Jay Walljasper:

"more than 800 million people around the world belong to one of these economic networks. Coops flourish in all sectors of modern society proving that sharing is a practical economic model. They represent a commons-based alternative to both the private market and state controlled enterprises.

Four in ten Canadians are coop members (70 percent in the province of Quebec). In the U.S. 25 percent of the population belongs to at least one coop ranging from credit unions to food coops to major firms like REI and Land O’ Lakes dairy, according to the International Co-Operative Alliance In Belgium, coops account for 20 percent of pharmacies: in Brazil, 37 percent of all agricultural production is from coops; in Singapore, coops account for 55 percent of supermarket purchases; in Bolivia, one credit union handles 25 percent of all savings; in Korea and Japan, 90 percent of farmers belong to coops; in Kenya, coops account for 45 percent of the GDP; in Finland, 34 percent of forestry products, 74 percent of meat and 96 percent of dairy products come from coops.

Around the world, coops provide 100 million jobs, 20 percent more than multinational companies." (


"The scale and impact of the UK’s mutual sector is revealed in the recently published Mutuals Yearbook, launched by campaigning group Mutuo at its annual conference in London.

Despite the recession, mutual businesses and organisations are set to achieve record revenue figures of £116 billion – a £4bn increase on last year’s total. Mutuo calculates that there are 17,897 mutuals in the country – a small drop on the 2011 figure – and over a million people employed in the sector. Altogether, according to the Yearbook, there are 5,933 co-ops in the UK; 338 Co-operative Trust schools; 9,006 clubs and societies; 184 football and rugby supporters trusts; 250 employee-owned businesses; 55 mutual insurers and friendly societies; 47 mutual building societies; 424 credit unions; 144 NHS Foundation Trusts and 1,516 housing associations." (

Related Wiki sections


"We acknowledge the cooperative movement as one of the transforming forces of the present society based upon class antagonism. Its great merit is to practically show that the present pauperising, and despotic system of the subordination of labour to capital can be superseded by the republican and beneficent system of the association of free and equal producers."

- Marx, 1866 [11]

"We recommend to the working men to embark in co-operative production rather than in co-operative stores. The latter touch but the surface of the present economical system, the former attacks its groundwork."

- Marx, 1866 [12]

Key Resources

  • Find Coop is a directory of alternative economic initiatives in the U.S. [13]

Key Articles

  • Coops Based on Cryptonetworks. Jesse Walden: "we believe that cryptonetworks — what we call “community owned and operated networks” — could unlock a new paradigm for continued cooperation, while still sustaining strong network effects".

* Special Issue: Affinities Journal, Vol 4, No 1 (2010): The New Cooperativism [14]

Selection of articles:

  1. The Cooperative Movement in Century 21. John Curl [15]
  2. Commons and Cooperatives. Greig de Peuter, Nick Dyer-Witheford [16]
  3. Social Centres and the New Cooperativism of the Common. Andre Pusey [17]
  4. A Buzz between Rural Cooperation and the Online Swarm. Andrew Gryf Paterson [18]

P2P Foundation

Please read:


Creating coops in the digital age:

  1. Worker Coop toolbox:
  2. A Technology Freelancer’s Guide to Starting a Worker Cooperative:
  3. Steps to Starting a Worker Coop:

Key Books

  • Cooperative Transitions to a Steady-State Economy. by Michael Lewis & Pat Conaty ; The Resilience Imperative is a key book integrating a vision of cooperatives in a broad social economy consisting of commons, solidarity economics, the principle of resilience, etc ..
  • Johnston Birchall, The Co-op: the People's Business: "For a full picture of the twists and turns of the history of the Co-op movement in the UK from the 1770s and right up to the mid-1990s with some earlier links to Ireland (before independence)"
  • John Curl, For All the People - Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative movements and Communalism in America. For the US history of Co-ops and the twists and turns.

  • Recommended by Pat Conaty:

"Recent books on Co-operative Economy solutions including:

  1. John Restakis, Humanizing the Economy,
  2. Richard Sennett's book Together,
  3. Bruno Roelants Capital and the Debt Trap. and
  4. Gar Alperovitz's latest book (2013) What Then Must We Do?

  • Bruno Roelants with Claudia Sanchez Bajo. Capital and the Debt Trap: Learning from Co-operatives in the Global Crisis. MacMillan, 2013.
  • John Curl (2009) For All the People, PM Press, 2009: On US co-ops and their potential with a fabulous review of US Co-op history:
  • Mark Lutz (1999) Economics for the Common Good, Routledge. For a superb intellectual case for co-operative economics including a brilliant case for worker ownership and rethinking the corporation'
  • JW Smith (2009) Economic Democracy - a Grand Strategy for World Peace and Prosperity.
  • Paul Hirst (1993) Associative Democracy: New forms of social and economic governance, Polity Press. convincingly updates the case for Guild Socialism


Key People

Recommended by John Restakis:

  • Lou Hammond Ketilson ; Centre for the Study of Co-operatives ; University of Saskatchewan (Canada)

<[email protected]>

  • Sonja Novkovic ; St. Marys University

<[email protected]>

hard core cooperative academic; Master's in Cooperative Business Administration

  • Ana Maria Peredo ; Centre for Co-op and Community Based Economy, University of Victoria

<[email protected]>

  • Hazel Corcoran ; Canadian Worker Co-op Federation

<[email protected]>

  • Anne Hoyt ,Dept. Chair Consumer Science, University of Michigan

<[email protected]>

cooperative theorist; used to run Center for Coop studies at Un. of Michigan

  • Vera Negri Zamagni, University of Bologna

<[email protected]>

foremost cooperative historian in Italy

  • Renate Georgen, Le Mat

<[email protected]>

practitioner, very engaged in theory and practice of cooperative social enterprise; Le Mat is largest social franchise coop in Italy, perhaps even in Europe

Other cooperative economists, or related, as recommended by Pat Conaty:

  1. Angela Espinosa
  2. Hazel Henderson
  3. Emily Kawano‎‎
  4. Margrit Kennedy
  5. Mary Mellor‎
  6. Margie Mendell
  7. Carlota Perez
  8. Ann Pettifor
  9. Molly Scott-Cato

and also:

  1. Hilary Wainwright, editor of Red Pepper in the UK
  2. Margie Mendell, Montreal, Quebec and Director of the Karl Polanyi Institute
  3. Frances Hutchinson, author of the Political Economy of Guild Socialism and Social Credit

Key Videos

  1. Stefano Zamagni on Cooperatives as a Counterpoint to Corporatism
  2. Robin Murray on the Future of Co-operation


The Commonwealth Wheel by Pat_Conaty.




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