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
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.
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.