Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to a set of principles, adopted by the International Cooperative Alliance in 1995.
The principles, as stated by the National Cooperative Business Association, are:
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its 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 – those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative – who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
3. Members’ Economic Participation
Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.
5. Education, Training, and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.
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
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.