Local Before Local Was Cool

Autonomy & Independence one of the Seven Cooperative Principles that give all co-ops Guidance


Whether you travel across the country or prefer to stay close to your home town, one of the things you may be noticing is the emphasis on “Buy Local” campaigns. This is based on the simple fact that it is important to support businesses that support our community.

The Small Business Administration and the research firm Civic Economics estimates that dollars spent at a locally owned business stay in the community more than 3 times longer than money spent at Big Box stores that have their headquarters far away from your hometown. This means that your community wealth is more likely to grow by shopping locally.

Consumer cooperatives in the food, utility, finance housing and purchasing co-ops have known this forever. These co-ops were formed by people in the community to serve the people that work, worship and live in the community.

A common expression among cooperators is, “If you have seen one co-op, you have seen one co-op.” While there are many similarities between co-ops that fact that we are controlled locally allowing us to serve your needs is a critically important principle.

The 4th of our seven cooperative principles is: Autonomy and Independence and that is defined as follows: Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.

This will allow us to continue to be the Self-Help organization envisioned by the founders of the modern cooperative movement.

In other words for the co-op to stay a co-op it is vitally important we stay close to you, our member, to ensure we are continuing to respond to your needs. This could be through offering renewable sources of energy, organic and local foods, better loan rates, the opportunity to connect to other businesses. We do this while continuing our efforts to support other local businesses, schools or civic organizations. Co-op should and need to welcome your participation and suggestions about how we can improve our locally owned and controlled services.

You can take that to the bank or better yet the credit union as all credit unions are financial cooperatives…

Posted on March 17, 2015 in Articles

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About the Author

Adam Schwartz is the founder of The Cooperative Way a consulting firm that helps co-ops succeed. He is an author, speaker and member-owner of the CDS Consulting Co-op. You can follow him on Twitter @adamcooperative.
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