So what makes a co-operative?
At the start of Co-operatives Fortnight 19 June – 3 July, we take a look at what values make up a co-operative organisation.
The seven core co-operative principles are as follows:
Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, 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. Categories of membership can be defined and equal representation from different categories can be guaranteed through the constitution of the organisation.
Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership and it is through the legally required annual general meeting where they are elected by the members. Most co-operatives have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and most decision are made by majority vote unless a 75% majority is specified in law.
Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive a limited compensation of any of the capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative by providing for reserves, benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative or through a suitable trust scheme and supporting other activities approved by the membership that may be social and /or charitable.
Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control be their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
Education, Training and Information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operative. They inform the general public about the nature and benefits of co-operatives.
Co-operating With Other Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, regional, national and international structures.
Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through environmentally and socially responsible policies approved by their members.
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