In early November, the United Nations concluded theInternational Year of Cooperatives. It is interesting in thisturbulent economic time and given the current populist sentimentthat the initiative to recognize the value of cooperatives did notreceive greater attention.

Maybe it's not surprising. When most people think aboutcooperatives, they think of the local neighborhood market that wasstarted and is owned by its residents. Of course, we tend to throwlabels on such enterprises as “crunchy” or “granola” to suggestthat the people and the business don't reflect the values andprinciples of the majority.

But that's not true. While the neighborhood market fulfills acertain need, so do other much larger businesses that employ thecooperative business model. They may focus on agriculture, food,energy, insurance and financial services. Consider thesebusinesses: REI, Sunkist, Land O'Lakes, ACE Hardware (many hardwarestores in general) or credit unions.

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