There are more than 29,000 cooperatives in the U.S. You may not realize that many household names in the business world are co-ops:
Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995. Cooperatives trace the roots of these seven principles to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England in 1844.
1. VOLUNTARY AND OPEN MEMBERSHIP
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2. DEMOCRATIC MEMBER CONTROL
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
3. MEMBERS’ ECONOMIC PARTICIPATION
Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.
4. AUTONOMY AND INDEPENDENCE
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.
5. EDUCATION, TRAINING AND INFORMATION
Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.
6. COOPERATION AMONG COOPERATIVES
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7. CONCERN FOR COMMUNITY
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.