These days, the presence of cooperatives across the United States is nearly universal. The largest sector is financial cooperatives, better known as credit unions. As of September 30, 2021, the National Credit Union Administration reports that 128.6 million Americans are member-owners of federally insured credit unions, which works out to about 38.6 percent of the nation’s population.

But the extent of cooperative business activity varies widely across regions and business sectors. Why have cooperatives been more successful in some areas than others? What are the most important ingredients for creating new co-ops? And how does the newest generation of co-ops differ from previous ones?

These were some of the questions that my colleagues at the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives and I sought to address in a recent report titled Collective Action in Rural Communities. In that report, we identified 945 cooperatives that were formed between 2011 and 2019, including 195 in rural communities and 750 in urban areas.

The findings are intriguing, including rapid growth of worker cooperatives and the emergence of sector-specific development strategies. There has been considerable innovation in the field of food co-op development. Additionally, the use of cooperative land ownership has provided increased economic security for tens of thousands of families living in manufactured housing (mobile home) communities. The demographics of who creates co-ops has also shifted. Increasingly, co-ops are being used by people in communities of color—especially Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities—as tools for community wealth building and economic development.

Read the full article about co-op development by Courtney Berner at Nonprofit Quarterly.