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 an organization controlled by the people who use it. The co-op exists for the co-opper's benefit. It is a democratic financial entity whose earnings and assets belong to its members. Cooperatives are based on values of self-help, collective 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 (like Bloomingfoods), 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!


BCL is one particular type of co-op: a housing co-op. In a housing co-op, each resident is a member of the co-op. They collectively, democratically control their living space and the assets of the co-op by voting in meetings. Co-ops like BCL that consist of a majority of students are fairly common near university campuses. They often seek to provide an affordable, alternative living space to dorms, sororities/fraternities, and apartments.

The Cooperative Movement

BCL 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

BCL 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 US and Canada. Through NASCO, we belong to a multinational network of cooperators who support, educate, and learn from one another.


Every fall, BCL 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. BCL rocks Institute each year en masse, and the folks who attend always come back brimming with new ideas for how to improve BCL!

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 values of democracy, equality, and equity into practice. You can learn more about the Cooperative Principles.

  • Voluntary & Open Membership

  • Democratic Member Control

  • Member Economic Participation

  • Autonomy & Independence

  • Education, Training, & Information

  • Cooperation Among Cooperatives

  • Concern for Community​

Bloomington Cooperative Living