What Are Cooperatives?
Cooperatives are businesses that are owned and controlled by the people who use their services. Rooted in communities and democratically organized, they are a way for people to organize themselves to serve local needs, build local wealth, and create local jobs. Cooperatives are based on the belief that people know what is best for themselves, and are able to work together to meet their own needs, a tradition deeply-rooted in our area.
Serving Local Needs.
Building Local Wealth.
Creating Local Jobs.
Cooperatives in the High Country
Most people in the High Country are members of a cooperative, though they may not realize it. State Employee’s Credit Union, Skyline Membership Corporation, Blue Ridge Electric, and Mountain Electric are all cooperatives that were organized to provide financial services or utilities.
Cooperatives in our history include Green Mountain Transportation Cooperative, which was the origin of Appalcart. During the Great Depression, farmers sold their produce to the Carolina Mountain Co-operatives. If you know of another cooperative from our past, please let us know!
Fundamental Principles of Cooperatives
Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, 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
Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.
3. Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually 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 co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
5. Education, Training and Information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6. Co-operation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7. Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.