Member organizations of the International Cooperative Alliance defined seven core fundamental principles to cooperative enterprises.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
2. Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations, controlled by their members who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Persons serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.
3. Members’ Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. Part of the capital is usually common property of the cooperative. Members receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their cooperative; setting up reserves (part of which would be indivisible); benefiting members in proportion to their transactions (use) of the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If cooperatives enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms to ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
5. Education Training, and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, regional, national, and international associations.
7. Concern for Community
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.