What Is a Co-op?

A Co-op is an independent, democratic organization owned, operated, and financed by its members. Co-ops serve their members and benefit the communities in which they live by keeping more dollars in the local economy.

With a Co-op profits are re-invested into the Co-op and its mission, going back to members in the form of patronage dividends, paying workers a living wage, buying from local farmers, providing honest information and education, and strengthening the economic underpinnings of our community.

The Seven Co-op Principles

Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995. Cooperatives trace the roots of these principles to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England in 1844.

1 Voluntary and open Membership

Cooperatives 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.

2 Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are democratic organizations by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.

3 Member Economic Participation

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

4 Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous, 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 cooperative autonomy.

5 Education, Training & Information

Cooperatives provide education and for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public — particularly young people and opinion leaders — about the nature and benefits of cooperation.

6 Cooperation Among Copperatives

Cooperatives serve their members effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.

7 Concern for Community

While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.