International Year of Cooperatives
In 2012, people around the world will celebrate and promote cooperative businesses. The United Nations-declared International Year of Cooperatives is a unique opportunity to raise awareness of and celebrate the social and economic contributions of cooperative businesses. Learn more here.
What is a Co-op?
A cooperative is a democratic enterprise that is owned and governed by its members. The cooperative's by-laws enforce the will of the members. The by-laws can be modified by a vote of the members. The board of directors who enforce the by-laws are elected by the members. All "profits" eventually must be returned to the members, either directly or via improvements to the shared enterprise.
The International Cooperative Alliance has adopted seven broad principles for cooperatives:
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Member economic participation -- members provide the capital and control the income
- Autonomy -- no contract can hinder the control of the membership
- Education of staff, membership and community about the benefits of cooperatives
- Cooperation with other cooperatives
- Concern for community
Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Cooperative members accept the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.