Fundamental Principles of Cooperatives
The Rochdale Pioneers organized and created guidelines known as the Rochdale Principles in 1844. Even though they were not historically the first co-op to emerge, their principles and rules strengthened the organization and formed the basis of a growing oriented movement. These principles include:
Voluntary & Open Membership
Participation in a cooperative is completely voluntary. Cooperatives are open to anyone who is willing to accept the responsibilities that becoming a member implies. Co-operatives are free from discrimination and shall never ban or deny a member from participating based on physical ability, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or any prejudiced of such sort.
Democratic Member Control
In a cooperative, members are treated as equals, where one person has the right to one vote. Since the cooperative is the owner, its members hold the authority to make decisions through democratic voting processes. Its members elect representatives who are accountable for their memberships. When members cannot be present, these representatives give a voice to all.
Member Economic Participation
Since a cooperative is owned by its members, its main objective is to serve the best interest of ALL its members. Cooperatives establish limits on their return(s) on investment(s), and even though they may pursue profit-seeking investments, these investments shall not be at the expense of ANY of the members.
Autonomy & Independence
In a cooperative, any capital raised should be exclusively used for the cooperative and its members best interests, which is determined democratically to preserve its autonomy. Hence, any agreements, arrangements, or settlements should serve the best interest of the cooperative, while maintaining its autonomy and independence.
Education, Training & Information
Education is a key aspect of cooperatives; through it, members are well-informed and empowered to make decisions that will be meaningful and positively impact their organization(s). By educating its members, a cooperative fosters trust and informs how the cooperative will be controlled/managed. Education, training, and information may develop and improve overtime, however it must adhere to necessary/relevant regulations and/or legislation outlined by the relevant authorities (i.e. Federal or Provincial governments).
Cooperation Among Cooperative
Cooperatives need to work together and support each other, as cooperation enhances the operations of any one cooperative, while improving its capacity to serve its members. This support can be in the form of buying goods and services from each other, sharing educational materials and organizational plans, or assisting in the development and growth of new cooperatives. By cooperating together, cooperatives can maintain/grow their resources, while supporting existing efforts within a network of cooperatives, enabling the broader community//network of cooperatives to grow.
Concern for Community
Cooperatives are at its core community-based organizations. As such, cooperatives should maintain strong ties with their local communities by strengthening their relationship with individuals, organizations, and groups within the community, and by creating and organizing opportunities for cultural development, mutual aid, education, communication, resources sharing/knowledge transfer, and ultimately harmonious living within their representative communities.