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Cooperative Principles

STATEMENT ON THE COOPERATIVE IDENTITY

DEFINITION

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.

VALUES

Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

PRINCIPLES

The cooperative principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.

  • Voluntary and Open Membership. Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
  • Democratic Member Control. Cooperative societies are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Persons serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. Members of primary cooperatives have equal voting rights (one member, one vote).
  • Member Economic Participation. Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
  • Autonomy and Independence. Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
  • Education, Training, and Information. All cooperative societies should make provisions for the education of their members, officers, and employees, and of the general public in the principles and techniques of cooperation, both economic and democratic.
  • Cooperation among Cooperatives. Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
  • Concern for Community. Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

(SCA recognizes the next two principles which are accepted by many other co-ops but are not part of the official ICA version.)

  • Honest Business Practices. Cooperatives should deal openly, honestly, and honorably with their members and the general public.
  • Ultimate aim is to advance the Common Good. All cooperatives should aid in the participatory definition and advancement of the common good.
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