Government of Trinidad and Tobagogov.tt

Co-operative Development FAQs

How do you start/join a Co-operative? 
The International Co-operative Alliance defines a Co-operative 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."

It must be emphasized that a Co-operative is a business. However, due to its peculiar nature and form, the organization of a ‘Co-operative Enterprise’ calls for this special treatment and approach.

A co-operative may be established for any purpose which meets the needs of any group or seizes an opportunity from which members of a group may benefit.

In Trinidad and Tobago, a minimum of twelve (12) persons must come together to establish a co-operative. The membership of any co-operative must share a common bond of interest, which may be either geographic or demographic. As such, any persons wishing to join a co-operative must qualify for the common bond of membership of the co-operative. Examples of a common bond include workers of an organization or farmers of a particular geographic region.

Persons or groups interested in forming a co-operative must contact the Co-operative Development Division, Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development through the various regional offices, at which time they will be guided by a Co-operative Officer through the formation process.

The process of forming or starting a co-operative is categorized into four action steps:

STEP 1 – PRELIMINARY WORK:

A survey must be undertaken with the objective of identifying:-

  • Real economic need for the proposed business enterprise
  • Potential Membership
  • Minimum Volume of Business necessary for economic operation
  • Co-operatively minded individuals to provide Local Leadership.

STEP 2 – EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMME:

The objectives of this education programme are:-

  1. To develop a deep understanding of the philosophy and principles of Co-operatives
  2. To teach participants how to analyse their own problems and how to tackle them on the basis of Co-operative Principles and Philosophy
  3. To give participants a detailed knowledge of Co-operative Management and control
  4. To develop the idea of the Co-operative Society as an important institution in the whole Community
  5. To stimulate participants to such a degree that their participation will be dynamic, intelligent and effective.

STEP 3 – PERIOD OF ORGANISATION:

This period begins with the appointment of an Organising Committee, after a group of participants large and representative enough, have received the necessary education, and have freely decided to start the organization of a Co-operative; they meet and appoint an organizing committee.

It is essential that, by this time, a sufficient number of good leaders are ready to take the society into their own hands and members should make the best possible selection of them.

The Organising Committee is responsible for three major activities:-

  • The development of suitable Bye-Laws for the Registration of the Co-operative
  • The preparation of plans for the setting up of the business of the Co-operative
  • Recruiting members of the Co-operative Society.

STEP 4 – SETTING UP THE BUSINESS:

During this step, the organizing committee takes action for the setting up of business activities:-

  1. The accumulation of capital
  2. The selection of business premises
  3. The selection of a manager and supporting staff
  4. The establishment of policies, procedures and methods of operations
  5. The supervision and internal control systems.

A business plan is a document providing a complete description of the proposed Co-operative Enterprise. The plan must include financial projections, marketing opportunities and other pertinent information about the venture. It must also address all issues relevant to the project.

During this step the organizing committee develops the business idea into a commercially viable business plan:-

  1. Conducting the Feasibility Study
  2. Outlining the Business Venture
  3. Projecting Production or Output
  4. Marketing Product/Service
  5. Projecting Financial Statements

STEP 5 – REGISTRATION OF THE CO-OPERATIVE

The Co-operative is registered in accordance with Section 17 of the Co-operative Societies Act, Chapter 81:03 (CSA) after the completion of the aforementioned steps and the following are submitted to the Commissioner for Co-operative Development in accordance with Section 16 of the CSA along with a recommendation of the Supervising Co-operative Officer of the group in-formation:

  • Completed application form for the registration of a Co-operative [Regulation 3, Form 1, Second Schedule, CSA]
  • The payment of the prescribed Registration fee of $10.00 [Section 16(3), Regulation 3, First Schedule, CSA]
  • Three (3) copies of the proposed Bye Laws [Section 16 (2)]
  • A copy of the proposed plans for business [Section 16 (2)]
  • Co-operative Credit Unions
  • Commercial Banks
  • Agricultural Development Bank
  • Securitization of the debt
  • Limited history of business operations

STEP 6 – FINANCING THE CO-OPERATIVE

Traditional avenues of financing are usually not available for Co-operatives as the business model has traditionally depended on membership contributions to capitalize the operations of the business. Within contemporary times, however, business plans have been developed to attract other types other types of equity and debt financing, granted the financing is not contrary to the operating principles and bye laws of the co-operative and is in accordance with Section 44 of the CSA.

The following organizations may accommodate financing for co-operatives:

  • Co-operative Credit Unions
  • Commercial Banks
  • Agricultural Development Bank

The following issues usually limit the access of co-operatives to the aforementioned avenues of financing:

  • Securitization of the debt
  • Limited history of business operations
  • Experience/competencies of the leaders of the organization

What are the types of Co-operatives? 

  • Credit Unions (Financial Co-operatives) – organized for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at competitive rates, and providing other financial services to its members. 
  • Agricultural Co-operatives - also known as farmers' co-ops, are co-operatives where farmers pool their resources in certain areas of activity, often supplying their members with inputs for agricultural production including seeds, fertilizers, fuel, and machinery services. These often also provide the means for marketing or selling the crops produced. 
  • Consumer Co-operatives – organized to promote its members’ products and services and to provide wholesale and retail consumer goods to its members at cost price. 
  • Workers Co-operatives – this type of co-operative can be organized to provide work in any sector for which the members possess skills, hence providing sustainable employment to its members. Members are essentially both the employees and the owners. 
  • Marketing Co-operatives – organized to market the products and services of its members. 
  • Multi-Purpose Co-operatives – organized to provide its members with services that are found in two or more different types of co-operatives. For example a multi-purpose co-operative may offer agricultural goods and marketing services to its members. 
  • Junior Co-operatives – are saving and investment societies for youth under the age of 21 years old. It is usually organized within schools but may be extended to clubs and other youth organizations, to encourage the habit of thrift. Ideally, the functioning of a Junior Co-operative within schools is undertaken by the students with guidance and support of a Teacher. 

What services does the Co-operative Development Division provide?
The Co-operative Development Division is positioned to offer regulatory, supervisory and developmental guidance to all co-operatives in Trinidad and Tobago. The activities of the Division in supervising and developing Co-operatives include:

1. Promotional

  • Promotion of the Cooperative idea, principles and philosophy
  • Creation or establishment and registration of new Societies
  • Stimulation of Co-operative interest
  • Education/Training of Co-operative Directors, other Committees and Members

2. Organizational

  • Planning, coordinating, organizing and evaluating the functions of Co-operatives
  • Assisting in formulation of Bye-laws
  • Facilitating interpretation of Co-operative Law
  • Assists in the development and review of Feasibility Studies, Business Plans, Strategic Plans for Co-operatives
  • Assisting in Policy Formulation
  • Attending General and Committee Meetings

3. Supervisory

  • Ensuring compliance with CSA, regulations and bye-laws of societies
  • Ensuring compliance with F.I.U., B.I.R., N.I.B. etc
  • Attending Annual General Meetings, Special General Meetings, to provide advice
  • Ensuring that monthly financial statements and yearly audited statements of accounts are completed and submitted to the CDD
  • Ensuring the functioning of Statutory committees; Credit Committee, etc.

4. Developmental

  • Assessment of operations (SWOT Analysis)
  • Assist/provide/facilitate in remedial action by Societies
  • Ensure collaboration between Secondary bodies, Tertiary bodies and the Division to enhance members’ benefits
  • Liaise with Non-governmental Organizations and other Government bodies

5. Training

  • Training of Committees, staff and members
  • Arranging seminars on special subject areas, such as Dispute Resolution, etc.
  • Training on Co-operative principles, practice and philosophy

6. Liquidation

  • Performs the functions of a liquidator of defunct Co-operative Societies

7. Audit

  • Responsible for audits of all types of societies
  • Assists in the establishment of record-keeping and book-keeping systems in societies

8. Dispute Resolution

  • Ensures the settlement of disputes referred under Section 67 of the Co-operative Societies Act, Chapter 81:03 

Where are the Co-operative Development Division offices located?
The Co-operative Development Division can be accessed at the following locations: 

  • Head Office
    Anva Plaza
    16-20 Eastern Main Road
    Tunapuna
    Telephone/Fax No.: 663-2352 

  • County St Andrew/St. David
    Brierly Street
    Sangre Grande
    Telephone/Fax No.: 668-2643 

  • County Victoria/County Nariva-Mayaro 
    Level 4, WASA Building
    40-42 St. James Street
    San Fernando
    Telephone No.: 652-3738
    Fax No.: 652-3181 

  • County St. Patrick
    Siparia Administrative Complex
    S.S. Erin Road
    Siparia
    Telephone No.: 649-2481
    Fax No.:649-0982 

  • County Caroni
    Corner John and Lange Streets
    Chaguanas
    Telephone No.: 671-1917
    Fax No.: 665-8869 

  • County St George
    Level 2, Anva Plaza
    16-20 Eastern Main Road
    Tunapuna
    Telephone No.: 645-6543/662-1086 

  • Tobago
    Victor E. Bruce Financial Complex
    2nd Floor, 14-16 Wilson Road
    Scarborough,
    Tobago
    Telephone No.: 660-7236 Exts 3300-3306 Fax No.: 635-2213

 
To access the full Frequently Asked Questions on Co-operative Development, please click the following:

FAQ Option 2