Community Table encourages the development of businesses organized as cooperatives. We envision a system of cooperatives working together in a network of mutual support and accountability, providing all the products and services needed in a thriving local food economy. Although there are a number of different ways to organize a cooperative, a cooperative is essentially a business that is owned and controlled by the people who use it. Cooperatives are designed for the benefit of their members, rather than to earn profits for outside investors.
The cooperative form of business has been in use for more than 150 years. In 1995 the International Cooperative Alliance adopted the following set of principles which are intended to articulate guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.
- Voluntary & Open Membership: Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use the co-op’s goods & services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.
- Democratic Member Control: Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members. In general, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote).
- Member Economic Participation: Members contribute to and democratically control the capital of their co-op. They receive limited compensation, if any, on capital contributed as a condition of membership. Profits are allocated to reserves and/or are used to benefit members in proportion to their transaction with the cooperative.
- Autonomy & Independence: Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations. Democratic control by the members must be maintained in all contracts the co-op enters into.
- Education, Training & Information: Cooperatives provide education and training for their members and staff to help them fully participate in the democratic control and development of the cooperative.
- Cooperation Among Cooperatives: Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local and national groups.
- Concern for Community: While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities.