The Seven Cooperative Principles, Explained:
- 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.
- Democratic Member Control—Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by
their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. The 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.
- Members’ Economic Participation—Members contribute equitably to, and democratically
control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common
property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital
subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the
following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which
at least would be indivisible; benefitting members in proportion to their transactions with the
cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
- Autonomy and Independence—Cooperatives 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 cooperative autonomy.
- Education, Training, and Information—Cooperatives provide education and training 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.
- Cooperation Among Cooperatives—Cooperatives serve their members most effectively
and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional,
and international structures.
- Concern for Community—While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the
sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.