September 2020 is a special month for cooperatives across the globe. That’s because this month marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the seven cooperative principles by the International Co-operative Alliance.
In 1995, the ICA adopted the revised statement on the Cooperative Identity, which contains for the definition of a cooperative, the values of a cooperatives, and the seven principles that guide us daily.
These seven principles are the guidelines by which we put our values into practice – values that include self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity.
These values date back to 1948, when nine pioneering western Kansas residents decided to take matters into their own hands and form Wheatland Electric Cooperative Inc. They were tired of being left behind by large, for-profit power companies that didn’t want to spend money to connect rural southwest Kansas to the grid. In 1950, thanks to grit and determination, they welcome more than 2,200 members to the cooperative.
We care because we’re not just a company – we’re a cooperative, owned by the people we serve. And in the tradition of our founders, we believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.
The following seven principles guide us in how we do business, build our communities, and serve our members across our service territory. We celebrate them this month because they are at the heart of everything we do!
1. Open & Voluntary Membership
Membership in a cooperative is open to all people who can reasonably use its services and stand willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, regardless of race, religion, gender, or economic circumstances.
2. Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. Representatives (directors/trustees) are elected among the membership and are accountable to them. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote); cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.
3. Members’ Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital remains the common property of the cooperative. Members allocate surpluses for any or all the following purposes: developing the cooperative; setting up reserves; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4. Autonomy & Independence
Cooperatives 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 as well as their unique identity.
5. Education, Training, & Information
Education and training for members, elected representatives (directors/trustees), CEOs, and employees help them effectively contribute to the development of their cooperatives. Communications about the nature and benefits of cooperatives, particularly with the public and opinion leaders, help boost cooperative understanding.
6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives
By working together through local, national, regional, and international structures, cooperatives improve services, bolster local economies, and deal more effectively with social and community needs.
7. Concern for Community
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies supported by the membership.