What is a co-op?
The Seven Cooperative Principles
1. Voluntary & Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organizations open to all persons able to use their services who are willing to accept the responsibilities of ownership without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
2. Democratic Owner Control
Co-ops are democratic organizations controlled by their owners who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Individuals serving as elected representatives are accountable to the ownership. In primary co-op owners have equal voting rights (one owner, one vote) and co-op at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.
3. Owner Economic Participation
Owners 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. Owners usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of ownership. Owners allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the ownership.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their owners. 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 owners and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
5. Education, Training, and Information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their owners, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6. Co-operation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their owners most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7. Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their owners.