Cooperative identity, values & principles

According to the Statement on the Cooperative Identity, a cooperative is "a self-governing group of people who have come together to address their economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations by means of a business that they own and control democratically."

The Cooperative Alliance of Kenya is the organization responsible for upholding the Statement on the Cooperative Identity in Kenya.

The International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) adopted the Statement on the Cooperative Identity in 1995, which includes the following definition of a cooperative, values shared by cooperatives, and seven guiding principles. For more information on how to put the Principles into practice within a cooperative business, read the accompanying Guidance Notes on the Cooperative Principles and Values.

The Meaning of the Word "Cooperative"

Cooperatives are groups of people who have come together voluntarily to create a business that serves their economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through democratic member ownership and management.

Cooperative values

The principles upon which cooperatives are built are those of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. Members of the cooperative uphold the original principles of their organization, including honesty, openness, social responsibility, and concern for others.

Cooperative Principles

The cooperative principles serve as a set of rules that cooperatives follow when putting their beliefs into action.

1. Voluntary and Open Membership

There is no discrimination based on gender, social status, race, politics, or religion in cooperatives; membership is voluntary, and anyone who can benefit from the services offered and is willing to take on the responsibilities of membership is welcome to join.

2. Democratic Member Control

Members of a cooperative have a voice in determining the direction of the business and shaping its policies in a participatory democracy. Elected officials have to answer to the people they represent. One member, one vote characterizes primary cooperatives, and this principle extends to all tiers of cooperatives.

3. Member Economic Participation

The cooperative's capital is amassed through the members' contributions and is managed in a democratic manner. The cooperative's members typically share at least some of the capital. Capital subscribed by members typically yields minimal returns for members. Surpluses can be used for any member-approved purpose, including but not limited to: cooperative growth (including the creation of reserves), member benefit (based on the amount they've spent with the cooperative), and cooperative support.

4. Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are non-government, member-driven organizations that operate independently. They maintain democratic control by their members and cooperative autonomy even if they enter into agreements with other organizations (including governments) or raise capital from external sources.

5. Education, Training, and Information

So that they can make meaningful contributions to the growth of their co-ops, cooperatives invest in the education and training of their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees. They educate the public, especially the younger generation and influential members of society, on the value of working together.

6. Cooperation among Cooperatives

By collaborating at the state, national, and even global levels, cooperatives can better serve their members and advance the cooperative movement as a whole.

7. Concern for Community

Cooperatives are organizations whose members voluntarily work to improve their local communities by implementing shared policies.

Cooperative Principles: Some Words of Advice

The ICA's Principles Committee, in 2016, published the Guidance Notes on the Cooperative Principles, a set of guidelines and recommendations for putting the Principles into practice in cooperative business. These notes are an attempt to put into 21st-century language what we know about how the Principles should be applied.
Guidance Notes on the Cooperative Principles and Values