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Cooperative Values

In addition to the Seven Cooperative Principles, there are a number of cooperative values that guide these principles: Equity, Equality, Self-Help, Democracy, and Solidarity. According to the Northcountry Cooperative Foundation, “[t]hese are the values on which the modern cooperative movement was founded and the basis for the organization of every cooperative enterprise in the world today.”

Equity

While “equality” is about giving people access to the same resources and treating them the same – “equity” is the concept of providing disadvantaged folks and privileged people with fair accommodation and treatment according to their needs - in order to put them on equivalent ground.

For example, an “equal” treatment of two people would be to give them both three apples. However, if one person already has two apples and the other person has none, an equitable action would be to give the first person one apple and the second person three apples. Otherwise the first person would still have more apples than the second.

This is important in situations where an “equal” action would continue to keep one person in an unfair position over another. People are born into different positions and our society provides certain individuals with privileges that others do not share. Therefore, equitability seeks to account for these unfair advantages that certain individuals inherit by giving people access to the proper resources, treatment, and more – in order to help them gain equal and fair social, economic, and political conditions.

Self-help

This is the notion that a co-op is an organization that will directly benefit its members and community by the actions it takes and the decisions its members make. Therefore, a co-op is not a charity; instead it is a tool for individuals and groups to use to directly improve their lives and communities through their own work and effort.

Self-responsibility

Self-responsibility is a major aspect of cooperation. In a cooperative, all members are in charge; so individuals must be accountable for their actions, responsibilities, and duties. Thus, a co-op cannot function properly if the members are neglectful of their responsibilities to their job, the co-op, their fellow members, and themselves. Specifically, in Worker cooperatives, all members are the owners and the body of the business, and so a worker co-op depends on the actions and accountability of the workers more than any other business.

Solidarity

This is the value of “fellowship” amongst members of a co-op (worker-owners or member-owners) and more, including: other co-ops, organizations, and individuals who are linked by a shared concern or cause. Solidarity is the recognition that, in the cooperative movement, the betterment of individuals’ immediate and distant futures depends on the improvement of others’ lives and the fulfillment of their goals (and especially for those who are from less privileged backgrounds). Thus, it is essential for cooperatives and cooperators to recognize the importance of working together to support others in their struggles, goals, and efforts – and for others to do the same for them.

Equality

Only one vote shall be entitled to one member regardless of the amount of contribution he/she has.

Democracy

Cooperatives are controlled, managed and operated by its members, thus every member's suggestions are accepted and heard for the betterment the services or products being extended. Every member, regardless of the amount of their contribution are treated fairly and whose voice or opinion are also honored and heard.

Spotlighted Discussions

These are spotlighted conversations from this page's Discussion Area.

How do you think co-ops should adopt cooperative values in their practices, businesses, and memberships?

In your opinion, do you think there is an important difference between equity and equality as values? Why do you think cooperatives find it essential to practice both?