The International Cooperative Alliance Statement of Cooperative Identity
Adopted September 1995
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 seven 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 responsibility 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. Those 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 organized in a democratic manner.
3. Member economic participation
Members 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. 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 the 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 supported 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 opinon leades – 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 the community
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.
The story of the Rochdale Pioneers
The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was a retail grocery store founded by 28 weavers and other artisans in Rochdale, England in 1844.
Originally selling butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal, and tallow candles, the business expanded rapidly as the co-op succeeded in elevating food standards.
The principles and values upon which the Rochdale Pioneers established their co-op in 1844 formed the basis for the modern cooperative movement.