What is a co-op?
Cooperatives empower people to improve their lives and enhance their economic opportunities through self-help. Around the world, cooperatives provide financial services, utilities, consumer goods, housing and other services that would otherwise not be available to their members.
Linden Hills Co-op works with other co-ops and businesses to promote local ownership, economic democracy and environmentally friendly practices. Being a cooperative means that we operate our businesses according to principles shared by consumer-owned co-ops around the world.
The Cooperative Principles
Statement of Cooperative Identity
The International Cooperative Alliance, established in 1895, is considered to be the final authority for defining cooperatives and the principles by which they operate. The organization has made three formal statements of cooperative principles over the past 100 years in an effort to keep them relevant to the contemporary world. At its 100th anniversary meeting in September 1995 in Manchester, England, the Alliance adopted the following “Statement of Cooperative Identity.”
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.
The cooperative principles are guidelines 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. In primary cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote), and cooperatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.
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 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 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 members.
For more information about cooperatives around the world, visit the International Cooperative Alliance.