Around the world, more than 1 billion people are member-owners of co-operatives that secure the livelihoods of 3 billion people. In Ireland, most people are members of a co-operative, whether through their local Credit Union, a Group Water Scheme, or a co-operative business.
A co-operative is defined as an autonomous association of people united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.
Co-operatives 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.
The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.
- Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to anyone able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
- Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions.
- Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
Co-operative Housing Ireland is the national federation representing co-operative housing in Ireland. Other representative organisations include: