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Co-operatives and Co-operative Working

Download an A4 poster of the Co-operative Principles and Values - PDF 800k

The individual collectives in Seeds for Change are Workers' Co-ops and our network is a Secondary (or Federal) Co-op.

A Secondary Co-op is a group of Co-ops who have decided to work together. The network shares common tasks (like this website) and is a way for us to provide support for each other.

Workers' Co-ops are owned and controlled by the employees. We've chosen this form of working together because it allows us to work non-hierarchically, and all employees help to set up our work practices and our work environment.

The official definition of a co-operative is:

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

As part of the co-operative movement we share values and principles that are an essential part of co-ops throughout the world.

In common with many other Grassroots, or Radical Co-ops we interpret these values strictly. Our Ethical Policy also reflects the values and principles, particularly those of caring for our communities and environment, and engaging in co-operation at all levels of our lives.

The Co-operative Values

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 Co-operative Principles

The Co-operative Princples are the guidelines for co-ops. The language of the Principles is quite formal so the following has been edited a bit to make them easier to understand. The International Co-operative Alliance has published the agreed current version of the Principles, and Co-operatives UK has written a very useful and brief guide on how to implement the principles in a worker's coop.

1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership

Membership of a Co-operative is voluntary - you can't be forced into joining, nor can you be excluded because of discrimination.

2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control

Co-operatives are democratic organisations - they're controlled only by their members. Members should have democratic control (ie consensus or "one member, one vote").

3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation

Members have a fair stake in the co-op, and unlike share capital in a normal company, the stake should only have a nominal return (eg so that it doesn't lose its value due to inflation). This capital can be used as the members decide.

4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence

Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations. They are controlled only by their members. They shouldn't make agreements or contracts that would compromise their autonomy or the democratic control by members.

5th Principle: Education, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members. This is to ensure the development of the co-operative.

Co-ops should also provide education and information to the general public to inform them 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. This can be done through local, national, regional and international structures.

7th Principle: Concern for Community

Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities.

Download an A4 poster of the Co-operative Principles and Values - PDF 800k
Find out more about Grassroots, or Radical co-operatives
Read our Ethical Policy
More resources for co-ops




cover of A Consensus Handbook


A Consensus Handbook: the new guide to consensus and facilitation
by Seeds for Change. More details, and how to get a copy...