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Cooperatives are member-owned businesses ...

Cooperatives are part of the self-help tradition of America. Cooperatives are businesses organized by people to provide needed goods and services. Cooperative businesses:

  • Are owned by the people who use their services;
  • Provide an economic benefit for their members;
  • Are democratic organizations, controlled by their members;
  • Are autonomous and independent;
  • Recognize the importance of education about cooperative business and organizational practices;
  • Support cooperation among cooperatives, which has resulted in the growing importance of cooperatives in today’s global economy; and,
  • Exhibit concern for their communities.

Cooperatives provide just about any good or service their members need. Cooperatives offer credit and financial services, health care, child care, housing, insurance, legal and professional services. Cooperatives sell food, farm supplies, hardware and recreational equipment. They provide utilities, such as electricity, telephone and television. And cooperatives process and market products and goods for their members.

Cooperatives are everywhere—helping people meet their common needs through group effort. Look about your community—you’ll probably find a cooperative or two. Some cooperatives do not have the word “cooperative” in their names, so you may not always know the enterprise is cooperatively organized. Yet there are cooperatives for everything. You’ll find them everywhere people need to get things done efficiently and economically.

Cooperative Principles

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

  1. 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.
  2. Democratic Member Control
    Cooperatives are democratic organizations 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. Members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Education, Training and Information
    Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public—particularly young people and opinion leaders—about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
  6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives
    Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together though local, regional, national and international structures.
  7. Concern for Community
    Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.





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