The international Cooperative Alliance defines a cooperative as “an 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.”

Characteristics of a cooperative organization include Joint Ownership, Democratic Controlled by the people that use its products, supplies and services. The first documented consumer cooperative was in 1769. The modern cooperative movement started in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1844 in Rochdale, England.

Cooperative enterprises are wide spread world-wide. In 2012, the United Nations declared the year as the International Year of Cooperatives. Membership world-wide in cooperative businesses has reached over 1 billion people in 96 countries.