What is a ‘Cooperative’?
The literal meaning of the word is 'joint activity’. In their broadest sense, economic cooperatives are based on a social and ethical ideology which place partnership and equality between people at their center.
Cooperative members enjoy joint ownership of the means of production (e.g. farming or industrial cooperatives) or joint purchasing power (consumer cooperatives) within a democratic organization in which all its members benefit.
Defining a Cooperative
According to the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) a ‘cooperative’ is an:
The Fundamental Principles of Cooperatives
The seven fundamental principles are set out by the ICA:
- Voluntary partnership – the services of the cooperative are open to anyone willing to assume the responsibilities that derive from being a member;
- Democratic control – the model allows each member one vote and to actively participate in decision making and the setting of policy;
- Financial participation – members are required to contribute to the cooperatives financial capital. The compensation they receive is dependent on their contribution and the ability of the cooperative to pay dividends after profits have been sustainably reinvested;
- Maintaining autonomy and independence – these values apply to both organizational agreements, and, in the acceptance of external funding bodies including government;
- Training and education – to ensure members are able to maximize their skills and abilities, as well as effectively communicate the principles of cooperatives more widely;
- Cooperation with other cooperatives – to strengthen the impact of cooperatives within local, regional, national and international economies;
- Concern for community and society – expressed through a contribution to sustainable development as approved by the members.