What exactly are cooperatives? What differentiates them from other forms of business? What are the advantages of cooperatives for members and communities in general?
Cooperatives are business enterprises owned and controlled by the very members that they serve. Their member-driven nature is one of the most clearly differentiating factors of cooperative enterprises. This fact means that decisions made in cooperatives are balanced by the pursuit of profit, and the needs and interests of members and their communities.
Cooperatives take many forms and operate in all sectors of society. Most share a unique set of principles which keep them attuned with their member-driven characterization.
What is 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 are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and concern for others.
Seven principles of cooperatives:
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Member economic participation
- Autonomy and independence
- Education, training and information
- Cooperation among cooperatives
- Concern for the community
Learn more about Cooperative Identity, values and principles as advocated by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).