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International Cooperative Principles

The International Cooperative Alliance Statement of Cooperative Identity

Adopted September 1995 (From Challenges to Cooperative Board of Directors: Gutknecht and Zimbleman)

ICA is an independent, non-governmental association which unites, represents and serves co-operatives worldwide. Founded in 1895, ICA has 251 member organisations from 93 countries active in all sectors of the economy. Together these co-operatives represent nearly one billion individuals worldwide.  


A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly and democratically-controlled enterprise.


Cooperatives are based on values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy equality equity, and solidarity.  In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.


The cooperative principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.  These 7 cooperative principles are the foundation for all decisions made by the Missoula Community Food Co-op:

Voluntary and Open Membership

Cooperatives are open to everyone wanting to use their services and willing to accept the responsibility of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.

Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions.  Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.

Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably, and democratically control, the capital of cooperatives. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative (possibly by setting up reserves, part of which would be indivisible); distributing to members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with or raise capital from other organizations including governments or external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.

Education, Training, and Information

Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public- particularly young people and opinion leaders- about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.

Cooperation Among Cooperatives

Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, regional, national and international structures.

Concern for the Community

While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities, through policies accepted by their members.


Permanent link to this article: http://missoulafoodcoop.com/about-the-co-op/principles/