What is a Co‑op?

All co-ops must follow the International Cooperative Alliance Statement of Cooperative Identity, which was adopted in September of 1995.

Definition & Values

Watch the video to find out more about co-ops!

A Cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

Cooperatives are based on the values of self help, self responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Principles

The seven Cooperative Principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice

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Voluntary and open ownership

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

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Democratic owner control

Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their owners who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Those serving as elected representatives are accountable to the ownership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one owner, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.

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Owner economic participation

Owners contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of the 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. Ownership allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the 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 supported by the ownership.

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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.

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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.

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Cooperation among cooperatives

Cooperatives serve their owners most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

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Concern for the community

While focusing on owner needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their owners.

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