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Seven Cooperative Principles

  1. Voluntary, Open Membership
    Open to all without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
  2. Democratic Member Control
    One member, one vote.
  3. Member Economic Participation
    Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. The economic benefits of a cooperative operation are returned to the members, reinvested in the co-op, or used to provide member services.
  4. Autonomy And Independence
    Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members.
  5. Education, Training And Information
    Cooperatives provide education and training for members so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public 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, regional, national 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.

Definition of a Cooperative

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 operate according to seven basic principles. Six were drafted by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) in 1966, based on guidelines written by the founders of the modern cooperative movement in England in 1844. In 1995, the ICA restated, expanded and adopted the 1966 principles to guide cooperative organizations into the 21st Century.