It is easy to think of the Co-op as just another choice when you’re shopping for groceries. I know I sometimes do. It is easy to forget that co-ops are a radically different alternative to meeting our needs: for food, for housing, for financial services, for insurance, for agriculture.
Well, as a way to remind us of that, it turns out that October is Co-op Month! We have our own month!!! Co-op Month, it turns out, has been a nationally recognized celebration since 1964.
There are worker, farmer, dairy, purchasing, producing, and housing co-ops. Ours is a consumer cooperative. A cooperative is owned by members who use the co-op to purchase the goods or services they need. We, as well as other co-ops, are guided by seven principles:
- Voluntary membership: Any person who is willing to accept the responsibilities of co-op membership is welcome.
- Democratic member control: Co-ops are controlled by their members. Members have control over setting policies for the co-op and making decisions for the cooperative.
- Member economic participation: Members contribute to the capital of the co-op democratically and equitably.
- Autonomy and independence: Co-ops are meant to be autonomous and democratically controlled.
- Education, training, and information: A cooperative provides education and training to members and board members to allow them to contribute to the development of the co-op.
- Cooperation among cooperatives: Co-ops will often work together, creating structures that help to improve the community and create a better world.
- Concern for community: The policies approved by the members should help to develop the community around the co-op in a sustainable way
These seven principles are foundational, but they miss the warmth and connection of our shopping and being a part of our Co-op. I like the array of good food available, I like seeing products from our region on the shelves, I enjoy the friendliness and welcome from staff, and I like encountering friends and neighbors in the aisles. And I like knowing I have a stake in this enterprise. As a member, I am a stakeholder!
by Calvin Dame