Cooperative Principles #1 and #2

Students at the Youth Conference say “one member, one vote” as they wait for their next quiz bowl question.

Did you know that while there are many different kinds of cooperatives doing business today, they all have something in common? Today’s cooperatives abide by the cooperative principles, a set of seven guidelines set forth in the late 1800s in England. The principles are what set co-ops apart from other business models.

Principle 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. Individuals who can use a cooperative’s products and/or services, and meet membership guidelines set by the board of directors (usually the purchase of shares) are eligible to become full members of their cooperative. This ensures that the people who are actively using the cooperative are the ones who benefit from it and have the opportunity to serve in leadership roles.

Principle 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. Each member of the cooperative has one vote, regardless of how much business they do with the cooperative. For example, a farm supply cooperative member who farms 500 acres has one vote, and another member who farms 5,000 acres also has one vote. In matters that come to the membership for a vote, like selecting the board of directors, each member has equal say.

Future blog posts will cover the five remaining principles – so stay tuned!