Category Archives: Co-operatives

Co-operative principles

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.

Co-operative values

The co-operative movement is based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.

These were the values identified by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844. When you read their story, you realise how important each value was to the success of that first co-operative.

The values are important to us because they define our common ground. You might think of them as the essence of the organisation that is our community farm. They are the reasons we as individuals have joined up as members to do something positive together. They are also there in the background whenever we make decisions, helping us choose what to do.

Here are a few words to explain each value:

  • Self-help – believing that we can improve things for ourselves by working together
  • Self-responsibility – taking responsibly for our own actions and involvement
  • Democracy – all members having a say in the way we run the farm: “one member – one vote”
  • Equality – equal rights and benefits for all members
  • Equity – trying to understand and allow for each other’s different needs, and so be fair to all
  • Solidarity – supporting each other and other co-operatives

The Rochdale Pioneers were also united in their belief in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. Ethics are the ways you can expect an organisation to treat people. So you should find in your dealings with the farm that we are honest with you, we are open with you, we act for the benefit of society as a whole and we care for others.

There is a global organisation for co-operatives, with further info about principles and values, the International Cooperative Alliance.

The Rochdale Pioneers

I am so inspired when I read about the Rochdale Pioneers.

Back in the 1800s most of the people working in factories were at the mercy of unscrupulous shop keepers. They couldn’t get fair prices and the food was often adulterated to bulk it up and increase profits – there was often powdered glass in sugar, white lead in flour and mahogany shavings or red lead in tea.

In Rochdale some 28 people struggled to pool £1 per person so they could buy food wholesale 14 miles away in Manchester. On 20 December 1844, a few of them walked the 28 mile round trip with a wheelbarrow to buy the food and the next night they opened their store with some butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal and a few candles.

Here is a video with more details: