Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
The seven Rochdale Co-operative Principles (established 1844, revised 1995) are the guiding principles on which all co-operatives are based - including Dublin Food Co-operative.
Voluntary and open membership
The first of the Rochdale Principles states that co-operative societies must have an open and voluntary membership. According to the Statement on the Co-operative Identity from the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA): "Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination."
Democratic member control
"Co-operatives are democratic organisations 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 co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner."
Member economic participation
Member economic participation is one of the defining features of co-operative societies, and constitutes the third Rochdale Principle in the ICA's Statement on the Co-operative Identity. According to the ICA, co-operatives are enterprises in which "Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative." This enshrines democratic control over the co-operative, and how its capital is used.
The second part of the principle deals with how members are compensated for funds invested in a Co-operative, and how surpluses should be used. Unlike for profit corporations, co-operatives are a form of social enterprise. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Instead, they allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: "developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible [in other words, the surplus can be reinvested in the co-operative]; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative [for example, a Consumers' Co-operative may decide to pay dividends based on purchases or a 'divvi']; and supporting other activities approved by the membership."
Autonomy and independence
The fourth of the Rochdale Principles states that co-operative societies must be autonomous and independent. According to the ICA's Statement on the Co-operative Identity, "Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy."
Education, training, and information
The fifth of the Rochdale Principles states that co-operative societies must provide education and training to their members and the public. According to the ICA's Statement on the Co-operative Identity, "Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of co-operation."
Co-operation among co-operatives
The sixth of the Rochdale Principles states that co-operatives cooperate with each other. According to the ICA's Statement on the Co-operative Identity, "Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures."
Concern for community
The seventh of the Rochdale Principles states that co-operative societies must have concern for their communities. According to the ICA's Statement on the Co-operative Identity, "Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members."
For more information about co-operatives try the following links:
The International Co-operative Alliance: http://ica.coop/
Co-operatives Europe: http://www.coopseurope.coop/
Housing Co-ops: http://www.nabco.ie/
Agricultural Co-ops: http://www.icos.ie/
Credit Unions: http://www.creditunion.ie/