Co-operatives are businesses owned and run by and for their members. Whether the members are the customers, employees or residents they have an equal say in what the business does and a share in the surplus (profits).

    As businesses driven by values not profit, co-operatives share internationally agreed principles and act together to build a better world through co-operation.

    Successful co-operatives around the world are allowing people to work together to create sustainable enterprises that generate jobs and prosperity and provide answers to poverty and short term business practices.

    The principles highlighted below show how members interact with each other and are summarized as follows:

    V oluntary and Open Membership

    Co- operatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

    D emocratic Member Control

    Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the co-operative— who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.

    Members’ Economic Participation

    Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the co-operative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the co-operative rather than on the capital invested.

    A utonomy and Independence

    Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the co-operative’s autonomy.

    E ducation, Training and Information

    Co-operatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of co-operatives.

    C o-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.

    C oncern for Community

    While focusing on member needs, co-operatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members

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