Applying the Co-operative Model

Co-operatives offer consumers a distinct, community-driven alternative based on shared co-operative values and principles.

Co-operatives are different from other business models because their revenue is determined by a Board of Directors and its members. The co-operative model can be applied to various types of organizations, both for-profit and non-profit.

Priorities are determined by the members’ needs in a productive, self-sufficient, and socially responsible manner.

Co-operation Values

The core co-operative values are as follows:

  • Self-help and self-responsibility,
  • Democracy,
  • Equity,
  • Equality,
  • Solidarity.

Co-operation Principles

Since 1895, these main co-operative principles have guided co-operatives around the world.

1. Voluntary and Open Membership for All Members

Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, open to everyone who is able to use their services and willing to take their responsibilities as members, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2. Democratic Control Exercised by the Members

Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. Men and women who are elected as member representatives are accountable to them. In primary co-operatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organized democratically.

3. Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. Usually, at least part of this capital is the common property of the co-operative. As a condition of membership, members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital. Members allocate surpluses to some or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by creating reserves, part of which cannot be shared; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the members.

4. Autonomy and Independence

Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations managed by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so in a way that preserves their members’ democratic power and maintains their co-operative independence.

5. Education, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide the education and training for their members, elected leaders, managers, and employees, so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operative. They inform the general public, especially youth and opinion leaders, about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6. Co-operation Among Co-operatives

To better serve their members and strengthen the co-operative movement, co-operatives work together through local, regional, national and international structures.

7. Concern for community

Co-operatives contribute to the sustainable development of their community with approved guidelines from their members.


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