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The Co-op Principles

Everyone — from founders organizing a co-op from the ground up to community members that invest in membership — should be aware of the seven cooperative principles. Co-ops (like any other ethical business should be) are based on values that support individuality, democracy, equality, honesty, and social responsibility.

The seven principles of food cooperatives

1. Open  & voluntary membership

Ownership is open to everyone who wants to join, without discrimination. 

2. Democratic member control

Those who buy in as Co-Owners control the business. Co-Owners will have a voice in major decisions through working groups, voting opportunities, and engaging in open discussions with the board. No one can have a majority interest or buy more control than anyone else — one person, one vote.

3. Member economic participation 

Funding for the Co-op will be a combination of traditional loans, grants, and capital contributed by our Co-Owners. The benefits and dividends will be the same for each Co-owner. 

4. Autonomy & independence

The Nashville Food  Co-op is owned by individual community members, rather than a group of investors. Any partnerships will be formed with democratic control and cooperative autonomy in mind. 

5. Education, training, & information

Cooperatives provide education and training for members, managers, and employees so they can effectively contribute to the development of the Co-op.

6. Cooperation among cooperatives

Cooperatives work together to help other cooperatives in formal and informal ways. There are several co-op groups that help new cooperatives open and maintain their organizations including National Co-op Grocers, the Cooperative Grocer Network, and the Food Cooperative Initiative

7. Concern for community

Cooperatives operate with a focus on member needs and concerns. We’ll work toward sustainable growth of our community through values-focused policies and programs. 

These seven principles were formed in 1844 by the first modern cooperative, the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers of Rochdale, England. While it’s not a requirement that all co-ops implement these ideas, most adopt them as business guidelines—the Nashville Food Co-op, included.

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