|Open Membership: Those who may reasonably
use the co-ops services within the practical limits
imposed by existing facilities, geography, etc., - must be permitted
to join. None may be barred for such reasons as race, religion,
sex, nationality or economic situation.
Democratic Control: Effective means to control the
organization must rest in the needs of the members on the
basis of one member, one vote. In order to provide capital,
members are urged to invest. No amount of investment, however,
can earn more than one vote for any member.
Limited Return on Investment: Dividends paid on invested
dollars should provide a fair rental for the members
money, but a nominal ceiling on interest prevents speculation
in co-op stock. Fundamentally, the cooperative exists to provide
services to its members, not to return dollars of profit to
Return of Margins to Members: Dollars left over after
all expenses would be read as profit for other organizations.
In this case, however, they do not belong to the cooperative,
but to the members, and must be so allocated on the co-op
books. Such dollars are returned to members, on a basis decided
by the member-elected
board, in proportion to each members use of the
service. Many electric cooperatives refer to these returns
Any organization failing to measure up to any one of these
four principle tests cannot be considered a cooperative.
Beyond these, the International
Cooperative Alliance believes two more practices to be
so essential to cooperative success that it has proclaimed
them to be principles also. They are continuing education
and cooperation among cooperatives.