What's a Co-op?

Cooperatives

• Are owned and democratically controlled by their member-owners - the people who use the co-op’s services or buy its goods - not by outside investors; co-op member-owners elect their board of directors from within the ownership.
• Return surplus revenues (income over expenses and investment) to member-owners proportionate to their use of the cooperative, not proportionate to their “investment” or ownership share. In other words, you get back a percentage of what you put in during years of surplus.
• Are motivated not by profit, but by service - to meet their member-owners’ needs for affordable and high quality goods or services. Co-ops exist solely to serve their member-owners.

Co-op Values


The 7 Co-op Principles

1. Voluntary and Open Ownership - Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of ownership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2. Democratic Owner Control - Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their owners, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the ownership. In primary cooperatives owners have equal voting rights (one owner, one vote) and cooperatives 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 cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. 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 cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting owners in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the ownership.

4. Autonomy and Independence - Cooperatives 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 cooperative autonomy.

5. Education, Training and Information - Cooperatives provide education and training for their owners, 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 owners most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7. Concern for Community - Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their owners.