THE SEVEN CO-OP PRINCIPLES, PRINCIPLE #7
This week we are exploring Principle 7, Concern for Community, the final principle of the Seven Co-op Principles. We hope you have enjoyed learning about the core values and principles of co-operatives throughout this series.
THE SEVEN CO-OP PRINCIPLES - PRINCIPLE #7: CONCERN FOR COMMUNITY
“Co-operatives take pride in contributing to the sustainable development of their community through the policies approved by their members.” - International Cooperative Alliance (ICA)
SEVEN COOPERATIVE PRINCIPLES
- Voluntary, Open Ownership. Open to all without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
- Democratic Owner Control. One Owner, One Vote.
- Owner Economic Participation.
- Autonomy and Independence.
- Education, Training and Information.
- Cooperation Among Cooperatives.
- Concern for the Community.
Principle 7 brings to life and combines the elements of “self-help and self-responsibility” and “the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others”. Cooperatives emerge from and are rooted in the communities they serve. The success of a co-op is directly reflected by the organization’s ability to improve the livelihoods of community members and support sustainable economic development of their surrounding community. This also makes it easy to understand why these elements are the heart and soul of a co-ops values.
A COMMON FUTURE
The special relationship a co-op has with their community goes beyond simple business economics. Because co-operatives are founded and democratically owned by community members, they have a commitment to assist individuals within their community to improved health and overall living. From the beginning, some of the first co-ops served their communities by providing meeting space and rooms for educational, social and cultural activities and focused on the development of civil society and other voluntary and community organizations. This principle encourages balance between leading community development and being a successful business enterprise that benefits both the current and future needs of its member-owners and the individuals within the community without ownership in the organization.
Co-operatives, like Grassroots Local Market, are built by community members to meet a common economic need within the community, in our case, a downtown grocery store. Co-ops like ours are established to enable the purchase of fresh, high-quality food, at an affordable price, market local produce and products, support local agriculture and local economy by creating jobs and bring valuable resources to downtown Lynchburg.
CONCERN FOR EMPLOYEES
Co-operatives create local jobs by recruiting employees who live in the community in which it operates. Having concern for the sustainable development of their community, co-ops must be a ‘good employer’, providing fair wages, high quality labor standards and share equal concern for their employees’ well-being and the well-being of their employees’ families.
CONCERN FOR THE YOUNG
Having a concern for the future of the surrounding community and the next generation of individuals who occupy that community is a focus for co-operatives as well. As the ICA states and as we’ve previously said in this series ‘any democratic member based organisation is as good as the next generation of its members’. Having concern for and engaging young people is a key way to ensure the best possible outcome for the community’s future.
Co-operatives encourage youth participation within its organization and offer valuable educational resources for the community's future occupants. From electing youth representatives to serve on on boards and focus groups, to hosting youth conferences and educational seminars in schools, co-operatives take youth engagement seriously and Grassroots will incorporate youth involvement in our organization as well.
SUPPORTING PEACE AND EQUALITY
Co-operatives help build just civil societies. By employing Principles 1 and 7, co-operatives are able to actively contribute to the sustainable development of their community and more widely, the sustainability of national regional, and global communities. Co-ops utilize fair trade practices, waste elimination, and encourage social equality among all individuals without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination. Encouraging community members to engage in the democratic ownership of their co-op creates new responsible activists who drive the development of sound practices and the forward movement of a better future and prosperity for all.