What is a Co-op?

When the bookstore project was in development, the co-?operative format was chosen by its founding members because of the principles upon which co-?ops are based:

Principles of a Co-op

A co-operative is an autonomous association of people united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise. 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 concern for others. Our objective is not to make the most profit from our members, but to reinvest surplus earnings in order to offer lower prices and increase the quality of our services. The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.

1st Principle: Voluntary & Open Membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination. The members are the managers. Co-operatives are organized so that the members control the organization. The structure enables members to elect the board of directors. Members may also run for the board. The board hires the store’s managers. The managers hire the staff. In co-operatives, the board is accountable to the general assembly of members – the people who need and use the co-op’s services. Our General Assembly happens once a year, and all members are invited to attend. Members are informed of the event via e-mail notification and postings on campus. If you are a member and aren’t sure if your address is on our mailing list, please contact us.

2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control

Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Individuals serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In a solidarity co-operative, all three types of members (i.e. worker members, user members and support members) have equal voting rights (one member = one vote). Co-ops are structured in a democratic way that allows members to have a say in their actions. The members also decide what should be done with any surplus that is generated by the co-op. The members of the co-op are people, or groups of people, who need and use the services and products a co-operative provides. In a co-op created to purchase goods and services, the users are the members.

3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation

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. Members allocate surpluses for any of the following purposes: developing their co-operative and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

4th Principle: Autonomy & Independence

Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into 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.

5th Principle: Education, Training & Information

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.

6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives

Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, regional, national and international structures.

7th Principle: Concern for Community

Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members. Co-ops are a way for communities to exercise control over the economic, social and cultural activities that affect the lives of community members. Establishing co-operatives and credit unions in communities (or for a community of people) is a powerful and democratic way to put decision – making in the hands of those who need and use the services. Co-ops are directed locally and invested in locally. The surplus profits of the co-op are returned to the members and therefore remain within the community.