What is a Coop?

In 1843, the Rochdale Pioneers set forth a statement of principles. These became known as the Rochdale Principles. Over the years, they have been amended several times by succeeding generations. In 1995, the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) voted to add a list of values, ethics and a definition.

In addition to the Statement on Cooperative Identity (re-posted below), in 2005, the ICA General Assembly also approved the World Declaration on Worker Co-operatives. This declaration attempts to further define the unique nature of worker ownership. To read this declaration, either hit the link above to download a pdf version or go to the CICOPA web site at: http://www.cicopa.coop.


The Statement on the Co-operative Identity

A co-operative 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.

Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.

1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control

Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decsiions. Men and women service as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives, members have eqaul voring rights (one member, one vote ) an cooperative at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.

3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocated surplusses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence

Co-operatives 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 co-operative autonomy.

5th Principle: Educaiton, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public--particularly young people and opinion leaders--about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6th Principle: Co-operations Among Co-operatives

Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7th Principle: Concern for Community

Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.