What are Cooperatives?
A cooperative is an organization that is owned and controlled by the people who use its products, supplies and/or services. Cooperatives can vary in their particular purpose but share in common the fact that they are formed to meet the specific objectives of members and adapt to members changing needs. Self-reliance and self-help are the hallmark of cooperatives.
The cooperative as a form of business organization began during the Industrial Revolution. Cooperatives promoted the interests of the less powerful members of society. Workers, consumers, farmers, artisans and others found that they could accomplish more by combining their resources and working together.
There are seven fundamental principles that guide cooperatives:
Voluntary and open membership. Cooperatives are voluntary organizations and membership is non-discriminatory by gender, social, racial, political or religious beliefs.
Democratic member control. Cooperatives are controlled by members who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
Economic participation. Members contribute equitably to the capital of their cooperative.
Autonomy and independence. Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members.
Education, training and information. To foster the development of a cooperative, education and training for members, elected representatives, managers, and employees is provided.
Cooperation among cooperatives. To serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement, cooperatives work together.
Concern for community. While focusing on members' needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.