DEFINITION A co-operative 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.
VALUES Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.
PRINCIPLES These principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.
1st Principle: Voluntary & Open Membership Co-operatives 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, physical handicap or religious discrimination.
2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Members serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote).
3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of the capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. They usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surplus for any or all of the following purposes: developing the co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting activities approved by the membership.
4th Principle: Autonomy & Independence Co-operatives 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 co-operative autonomy.
5th Principle: Educating, Training, & Information Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public — particularly young people and opinion leaders — about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
6th Principle: Cooperation among Co-operatives. Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
7th Principle: Concern for Community While focusing on member needs, co- operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.