Co-operatives worldwide. (In their own words)
What is a cooperative?
A cooperative is defined in the Statement on the Cooperative Identity as;
an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.
But what does it mean?
Explaining what a cooperative is:
Cooperatives are people-centred enterprises owned, controlled and run by and for their members to realise their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations. Cooperatives bring people together in a democratic and equal way. Whether the members are the customers, employees, users or residents, cooperatives are democratically managed by the ‘one member, one vote’ rule. Members share equal voting rights regardless of the amount of capital they put into the enterprise.
As businesses driven by values, not just profit, cooperatives share internationally agreed principles and act together to build a better world through cooperation. Putting fairness, equality and social justice at the heart of the enterprise, cooperatives around the world are allowing people to work together to create sustainable enterprises that generate long-term jobs and prosperity. Cooperatives allow people to take control of their economic future and, because they are not owned by shareholders, the economic and social benefits of their activity stay in the communities where they are established. Profits generated are either reinvested in the enterprise or returned to the members.
The cooperative movement is far from being a marginal phenomenon, at least 12% of humanity is a cooperator of any of the 3 million cooperatives on earth.
Read the Statement on the Cooperative Identity which contains the definition of a cooperative, the values of cooperatives, and the seven cooperative principles here.
The Statement on the Cooperative Identity states that a cooperative is an “autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.”
The International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) is the global steward of the Statement on the Cooperative Identity – the Values and Principles of the cooperative movement.
In 1995, the ICA adopted the revised Statement on the Cooperative Identity which contains the definition of a cooperative, the values of cooperatives, and the seven cooperative principles as described below. You can also consult the Guidance Notes on the Cooperative Principles and Values which give detailed guidance and advice on the practical application of the Principles to the cooperative enterprises.
A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.
Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
The cooperative principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.
Cooperatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
Cooperatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
In 2016, the ICA’s Principles Committee released the Guidance Notes on the Cooperative Principles, giving detailed guidance and advice on the practical application of the Principles to cooperative enterprise. These Guidance Notes aim to state our understanding of the application of the Principles in contemporary terms for the 21st century.
The Guidance Notes on the Cooperative Principles
03 JAN 2017
The International Cooperative Alliance is the global steward of the Statement on the Co-operative Identity – the Values and Principles of the cooperative movement. As part of its stewardship of the co-operative identity, the ICA’s Principles Committee – which has worked towards the goal of securing the cooperative identity of the Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade – is pleased to share the Guidance Notes on the Cooperative Principles. These Guidance Notes give detailed guidance and advice on the practical application of the Principles to cooperative enterprise. Their primary audience is the upcoming generation of cooperative leaders. They aim to help cooperators run their cooperatives more efficiently and effectively. We also hope that they will be a worldwide resource for educators, learners, regulators, decision-makers, public authorities, and for others seeking to understand how the Principles are to be applied in practice. These Guidance Notes are a statement of our understanding of the Principles now, but they are living documents, not static. These Guidance Notes aim to state our understanding of the application of the Principles in contemporary terms for the 21st century. We hope you will gain understanding and inspiration from them.
|Type: Research and Reviews|
Tags: principles values and principles principles committee
|Files: Guidance Notes_EN Guidance Notes_ES Guidance Notes_FR Guidance Notes_HR Guidance Notes_KO Guidance Notes_GR|
The Rochdale Pioneers
The earliest record of a cooperative comes from Fenwick, Scotland where, in March 14, 1761, in a barely furnished cottage local weavers manhandled a sack of oatmeal into John Walker’s whitewashed front room and began selling the contents at a discount, forming the Fenwick Weavers’ Society. In 1844 a group of 28 artisans working in the cotton mills in the town of Rochdale, in the north of England established the first modern cooperative business, the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society, also known as the Rochdale Pioneers. They are regarded as the prototype of the modern cooperative society and founders of the cooperative movement. The weavers in these cotton mills in Rochdale faced miserable working conditions and low wages, and they could not afford the high prices of food and household goods. They decided that by pooling their scarce resources and working together they could access basic goods at a lower price. Initially, there were only four items for sale: flour, oatmeal, sugar, and butter.
(N.B. According to current available records, this previous statement is (in my humble opinion) inaccurate and should be corrected) P.W.
The Pioneers decided it was time shoppers were treated with honesty, openness, and respect, that they should be able to share in the profits that their custom contributed to, and that they should have a democratic right to have a say in the business. Every customer of the shop became a member and so had a true stake in the business. At first, the cooperative was open for only two nights a week, but within three months, the business had grown so much that it was open five days a week.
An independently formulated cooperative model was developed in Germany by Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen and Franz Hermann Schultz-Delitsch. Raiffeisen and Schultz-Delitsch originally formed credit unions in 1862. Since then the model has grown into other sectors and inspired the growth of financial cooperatives across the world.
The achievement in forming the ICA 125 years ago and the continued strength of the cooperative model is a testament of its relevance and contribution and around the world. It has been one of the only international organisations to survive both World War I and World War II. Overcoming all the political differences between its members was difficult, but the ICA survived by staying committed to peace, democracy, and by remaining politically neutral.
New forms and kinds of cooperatives are being invented all the time. Social cooperatives, a noteworthy and impactful experiment in itself, were invented in Italy in the late 1970s, and are now extending all over the world. We have recently seen the emergence of freelancers’ cooperatives, community cooperatives, and different types of multi-stakeholder cooperatives around innovative cooperative entrepreneurial models. It is clear that new forms of cooperatives will continue to emerge as the socio-economic needs of human beings evolve and common aspirations manifest into a collective will to build a better world.
Cooperatives are enterprises based on ethics, values, and principles. Through self-help and empowerment, reinvesting in their communities and concern for the well-being of people and the world in which we live, cooperatives nurture a long-term vision for sustainable economic growth, social development and environmental responsibility’s and infrastructure society needs to thrive (World Cooperative Monitor).
Cooperatives are not a marginal phenomenon More than 12% of humanity is part of any of the 3 million cooperatives in the world!
The largest 300 cooperatives and mutuals report a total turnover of 2,146 billion USD, according to the World Cooperative Monitor (2020).
As member-owned, member-run and member-serving businesses, cooperatives empower people to collectively realise their economic aspirations, while strengthening their social and human capital and developing their communities. The International Cooperative Alliance is one of the largest non-governmental organisations in the world today by the number of people it represents: more than 1 billion cooperative members from any of the 3 million cooperatives worldwide.
The International Cooperative Alliance, with the scientific and technical support of the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Euricse) – publishes an annual report on the cooperative economy: the World Cooperative Monitor.
You can find, download the World Cooperative Monitor and add your cooperative date for the next edition at www.monitor.coop
Presented for the first time at the 2014 Summit of Cooperatives, the study “Cooperatives and Employment: a global report” carried out by CICOPA, the International Cooperative Alliance’s sector for industrial and service cooperatives, discusses the significance of cooperative employment globally, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Its second edition published in September 2017 and based on data from 156 countries, shows how cooperatives contribute to resilient employment, a sustainable economy and the well-being of people at work.
There is no global-level comprehensive database of cooperative statistics because statistical offices analyse cooperatives differently from country to country. Therefore, it is difficult to get a complete picture. There are some key reports and tools that provide some global data on cooperatives:
- The World Cooperative Monitor (produced annually by the International Cooperative Alliance and Euricse).
- The Global Census on Cooperatives (produced by David Grace in 2014).
- Cooperatives and Employment (produced by CICOPA in 2014 and 2017).
- The Data Explorer produced by the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC).
We hope that you found these articles interesting and useful in deciding if or how you feel we could co-create a living and working community together.
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