training &



Co-operatives: values and principles

The International Co-operative Alliance has undertaken three reviews of the Co-operative Principles in 1937, 1966 and 1995. These reviews modernised the idea of Co-operation, maintained its relevance and proivide an up-to-date test of whether an organisation qualified to call itself a co-operative. The definition of a co-operative as established in the 1995 Co-operative Principles has been included in a number of policy documents including the United Nations Guidelines, the International Labour Organisation Recommendation 193 on the Promotion of Co-operatives, the European Co-operative Statute and a number of national laws.
The values and principles are an indispensable guide for what is often a diverse group of individuals coming together to make beneficial contributions to their communities, their families, and themselves. When the going gets tough these are reminders of the bigger picture at the heart of the enterprise or undertaking. We are in it for everyone, and that is not an easy aspiration to achieve always. We at FOHCOL have reaffirmed our hope that all our members can find time to revisit this statement regularly in their times together and especially when times are fraught...
Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.
1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, 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.
2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled 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 co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.
3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. 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 their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
5th Principle: Education, Training and Information Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7th Principle: Concern for Community Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
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