In order to take part in the development of society in a conscientious and organized manner, we must first discuss as a group the way we understand the life of our community, defining the future that we desire. Since the beginning of cooperativism, the exchange of ideas among people for resolving mutual problems has been considered a necessary and irreplaceable practice.
In appropriating knowledge, people appropriate the power to modify reality, proving that it is possible to achieve a better and more worthy world with one´s own hands.
This democratic habit accompanies the growth of the cooperativist movement and paved the way for the permanent coordination of its representatives, emphasized in successive congresses since last century.
The hundredth anniversary of International Cooperative Alliance - ICA was celebrated in 1995. At the congress in celebration of this historical date, members from all over the world once again discussed important issues for the empowerment of the cooperativist practice, reflecting the aims of their organizations.
During the event they approved concepts and principles that are not very different from those presented by the pioneers of Rochdale, but that should always be on the agenda to, once updated and refined, serve as the basis of the development strategies of the cooperative system existing in various countries.
Current Principles of Cooperativism
Principles are the guidelines of the cooperativist practice:
Voluntary and Free Adhesion
Cooperatives are organizations open to the participation of every person, regardless of gender, race, social class, political or religious option. To take part, the person should be familiar with and decide whether he/she is in a condition to perform the agreements established by the majority.
Cooperative members, assembled in a meeting, discuss and vote on the objectives and goals of the joint work, and elect representatives to manage the corporation. Each member represents one vote, no matter whether some hold more shares than others.
Economic Participation of the Members
All contribute equally towards the formation of the cooperative´s capital, which is controlled democratically. If the cooperative is properly managed and obtains a higher income than expenses, these returns will be divided up among the partners up to the limit of the amount of contribution made by each one. The rest can be set aside for investments in the actual cooperative or for other purposes, always in accordance with the decision made at the meeting.
Autonomy and Independence
The operation of the company is controlled by its partners, which are the owners of the business. Any agreement entered into with other organizations and companies should ensure and maintain this condition.
Education and Information
It is a permanent objective of the cooperative to organize actions and resources to qualify its members, training them in the cooperativist practice and in the use of equipment and techniques in the productive and commercial process. At the same time, they seek to inform the public about the advantages of organized cooperation, stimulating the teaching of cooperativism at high school level.
For the empowerment of cooperativism it is important to have an exchange of information, products and services, making the sector viable as a socioeconomic activity. On the other hand, organized in representative entities, formed to contribute in their development, they determine progress and achievements for the cooperativist movement at the local and international levels.
Interest in the Community
Cooperatives work for the wellbeing of their communities, through the execution of sociocultural programs, carried through in partnership with the government and other civil entities.