THE SEVEN CO-OP PRINCIPLES, PRINCIPLE #4

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Principle 4 is HERE!

We’ve designed this series of posts to provide you and your neighbors with a better understanding of co-ops and the impact Grassroots Local Market will have in YOUR community.

This week, we are expanding on Principle # 4, Autonomy and Independence, of the Seven Principles of Cooperatives.

 

THE SEVEN CO-OP PRINCIPLES - PRINCIPLE #4: AUTONOMY AND INDEPENDENCE

We have previously discussed that co-operatives are self-governed and autonomous enterprises, and they are also independent. We have also identified that co-operatives are formed to fill a need within the community and the integrity of the organization relies on the central values of self-help, self-responsibility and democracy. The idea of building a fair and just society is a catalyst driving community members to take responsibility and action instead of waiting for government officials, traditional commercial enterprises or those with wealth and power to make change.

 

SEVEN COOPERATIVE PRINCIPLES

  1. Voluntary, Open Ownership. Open to all without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.

  2. Democratic Owner Control. One Owner, One Vote.

  3. Owner Economic Participation.

  4. Autonomy and Independence.

  5. Education, Training and Information.

  6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives.

  7. Concern for the Community.

 

SO, WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN?

Co-operatives are autonomous organizations always controlled by and accountable to their members.

While the first three principles ensure equality, and a level playing field for member-owners and their voice in the co-op, the fourth principle is designed to protect those rights. The Co-op must always be independent and autonomous from any other governing body it may be associated with. While a Co-op may enter into agreements with other organizations, including local, state, and federal governments, it may not allow any of those agreements to infringe on the democratic member control, or the unique identity of the co-op.

 

INDEPENDENCE DOES NOT SPECULATE LACK OF GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

Being independent from government does not minimize the importance of co-operatives in the overall economy. In fact, because co-ops place high-value on equality and leveling the playing field for community members, co-ops have been proven to improve the overall economy of a community. While independent from government, this does not mean governments exclude the value of a co-operative and provide support for their development as well. In many cases, legislation is often drafted to promote further development while ensuring co-operatives maintain their autonomy and independence.

As we discussed in Principle 2, co-operative organizations are member-owned and “controlled by their members”. The International Co-operative Alliance defines a co-operative as an ‘autonomous association of persons meeting their economic, social and cultural needs through a jointly owned and democratically controlled organisation’. Principle 4 brings in the terms autonomous and independent. A co-operative cannot be autonomous and independent unless the organization remains transparent and open and implements sound democratic and business practices.

Next week, we will discuss Principle 5, Education, Training and Information.

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