What’s a Co-op?

“A cooperative is 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.”1

What does that mean in plain English? Basically, a co-op is a business controlled by the people who use it, and which exists for their benefit. They are democratic organizations whose earnings and assets belong to their members. Cooperatives are based on values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity.

Often, we’re not aware of co-ops because they exist in so many forms throughout the world. There are food co-ops, worker co-ops, bookstore co-ops, bicycle co-ops, agricultural co-ops, artist co-ops, and energy co-ops! Credit unions are basically cooperative banks. You can find co-ops just about anywhere if you look!

MOSAIC is one particular type of co-op: a housing co-op. In a housing co-op, residents are all members of the co-op, and they collectively, democratically control their living space and the assets of the co-op. Co-ops like MOSAIC that primarily serve students are fairly common near university campuses (some places more than others), and often seek to provide an affordable, alternative living space.

The Cooperative Movement

MOSAIC is just one small part of a much larger cooperative movement that spans the globe and stretches back generations. We’re proud to be part of a movement with a rich history of organizing and building together to create a better, more equitable world.

NASCO & the Student Cooperative Movement

MOSAIC is tied to a larger cooperative community through our membership in NASCO (North American Students of Cooperation). NASCO is an association of (primarily) student housing co-ops from all around the U.S. and Canada. Through NASCO, we continue to be part of a network of cooperators who support, educate, and learn from one another.

MOSAIC co-opers attending NASCO Institute!Every fall, MOSAIC sends several of our members to attend NASCO’s annual conference in Ann Arbor (known as “NASCO Institute”). At Institute, hundreds of cooperators from around North America gather to learn new cooperative skills, attend workshops, share ideas, and discuss issues facing the cooperative movement around the world. MOSAIC rocks Institute each year en masse, and the folks who attend always come back brimming with new ideas for how to improve MOSAIC!

The Cooperative Principles

Created by the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in 1844, the Cooperative Principles are a set of seven principles that many co-ops use as guidelines for putting our values of democracy, equality, and equity into practice. You can learn more about the Cooperative Principles here.

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership
  2. Democratic Member Control
  3. Member Economic Participation
  4. Autonomy and Independence
  5. Education, Training, and Information
  6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives
  7. Concern for Community

Other Cooperatives

MOSAIC is only one among many co-ops in the Chicago area and around the world.

Chicago-Area Co-ops
Student Housing Co-ops

This is not an exhaustive list! See NASCO’s directory if you want to find other student co-ops.

Other Co-ops We Like