How do co-operative organisations work? Here are the 7 principles by which co-operatives put their values into practice, adapted for Aldermoor Community Farm.
It is a bit dry, but it’s powerful stuff.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
You don’t have to become a member to use our services – membership is voluntary. And no-one is excluded – we are open to everyone who wants to join in and is willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.
2. Democratic Member Control
We are a democratic organisation controlled by our members, who actively participate in setting our policies and making decisions. We elect our own directors from our membership and they are are accountable to the membership. Members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote), regardless of any other contribution they have made to the farm (such as materials, voluntary work, or financial grant.
3. Member Economic Participation
Some cooperatives are started by all members putting money in to get it going. We did not make it a requirement, but from time to time members have put their own money into the farm to buy equipment. Other members have put money into the farm in the form of withdrawable share capital, which they can one day receive back. If we have any profit, we decide together at our AGM how to use it. We could decide to use profits to develop the farm more; to set up reserves; to give a dividend to members in proportion to how much they have spent in the farm shop; to support other similar co-operatives or activities.
4. Autonomy and Independence
We are an autonomous, self-help organisation controlled by our members. If we raise capital from external sources, we do so on terms that ensure democratic control by our members and maintain our co-operative autonomy.
5. Education, Training and Information
We provide education and training for our members, directors, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of the co-operative. We try to inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6. Co-operation among Co-operatives
Despite being a very small, new organisation, we try to play our part in strengthening the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7. Concern for Community
We work for the sustainable development of our communities through policies approved by our members.