To some, October means the beginning of fall, decorating pumpkins, or celebrating Oktoberfest. But to us, October means celebrating National Co-op Month.
“Why join a co-op? What’s my benefit?” are two questions we get a lot around here. While we have a number of member benefits, we think about the benefits in terms of the community. Joining a co-op directly affects your local economy because membership supports a local, independent business within your community. Unlike large corporations, your membership and opinions are extremely important to your local co-op – it’s how a co-op survives and operates on a daily basis. Beyond the immediate community, co-ops often strive to support local farmers and vendors by selling their products in store.
The Philadelphia area is lucky to be rich with co-op communities. While we are our own separate entities, we work together to strengthen the co-op movement. At a time when local food and community needs seem to be lacking in the industry, we are looking to put the control back in your hands.
Below are the seven principles co-ops uphold themselves to nationwide:
Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, 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.
Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organizations 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 co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.
Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. 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 co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
Education, Training and Information
Co-operatives 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.
Co-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.
Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.