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Co-operative Principles

The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.

Many types of businesses are set up as co-operatives. There are farm co-ops, food co-ops, co-op daycares, housing co-ops, credit unions, worker co-ops, and so on.

Co-operatives around the world follow a set of principles based on principles drafted by the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in England in 1844. The modern co-operative movement is founded on the Rochdale Pioneers’ co-op model.  Adherence to the principles is usually voluntary, but some principles inform the legislation on which co-operatives operate. For example, democratic member control is a mandatory defining trait of co-operatives required by the Co-operative Association Act in BC.

2020 International Day of Cooperatives | ICA

On September 23, 1995, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), the body representing co-operatives around the world, adopted the following guiding principles (pdf) for co-ops of all kinds. In 1995, the International Co-operative Alliance accepted these principles for all co-operatives. The seven principles are guidelines for co-ops to put their values into practice.

You can download a copy of these principles to share with your co-op, colleagues, and friends. They have been reworded for housing co-ops.

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Membership in a housing co‑operative is open to all who can use the co‑op’s services and accept the responsibilities of being a member, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
Housing co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members. Together members actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions on the principle of one member one vote. Board members serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. Housing co-ops give members the information they need to make good decisions and take part in the life of the co-op.
Members financially contribute to—and democratically control—the capital of their co-operative and share in the benefits of membership.  The co‑op does not pay a return on the members’ shares or deposits. It charges the members only what it needs to operate soundly, including setting aside reserves for the future, or directed to other activities approved by the membership.
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 continued democratic control by their members.
Housing co-operatives provide education and training for their members, directors, and staff so everybody can contribute effectively to the development of their co-op. They also strive to inform the general public—particularly young people and opinion leaders—about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
Co-operatives serve their members and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together with other co-ops and local,  national, regional, and international co-operative organizations. By organizing together in federations, housing co‑ops grow stronger and help to build a healthy co op movement. Where they can, housing co‑ops use the services of co‑op businesses to meet their needs.
Housing co‑operatives work to build strong communities inside and outside the co‑op. They help to improve the quality of life for others and they take care to protect the environment.