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Seven Cooperative Principles: Part 1

Exploring what these principles mean for you

Tipmont REMC | Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Indiana’s electric cooperatives operate according to the seven cooperative principles. These principles help guide the operations of all co-ops throughout the world and form the basis of the cooperative spirit to this day.

GettyImages 1221564534These seven principles are:

  • Voluntary and Open Membership
  • Democratic Member Control
  • Members’ Economic Participation
  • Autonomy and Independence
  • Education, Training and Information
  • Cooperation Among Cooperatives
  • Concern for Community

Let’s do a deep dive into what four of these principles mean to you as a consumer – and member – of your electric cooperative.

#1 – If you use a cooperative’s services, you’re a member.

Just as America was founded on the belief everyone is created equal, cooperatives hold true to a similar concept: voluntary and open membership. This principle states that “cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, political, racial or religious discrimination.”

An electric cooperative is not an exclusive club open only to specific types of people. All you have to do is live or have a business in cooperative territory – and be a consumer of the cooperative’s services. It’s as simple as that.

Since cooperatives do not discriminate based on someone’s gender, social standing, political stance, race or religious beliefs, their consumers are diverse. Consumers are encouraged to play active roles in their cooperative by attending cooperative-sponsored events – such as the annual meeting – and even running for positions on the cooperative’s board. Stay informed about what is happening at your cooperative by reading its monthly magazine and checking out your REMC’s social media accounts. By knowing about your cooperative’s programs and activities, the challenges affecting the electric industry, and the unique benefits available to you, you can maximize your role as a cooperative consumer.

#2 – Who’s in charge? Consumers like you vote for the board of directors

The second cooperative principle, “democratic member control,” addresses one of the most significant benefits of being a cooperative consumer.

Cooperative consumers, also known as cooperative “members,” exercise the principle of “democratic member control” by either voting for board candidates they feel will best represent their interests or even running for a board position themselves. This happens each year at the cooperative’s annual meeting.

Unlike many businesses, a cooperative’s board of directors consists of community members who receive services from the cooperative, not of investors who may not even live nearby. That means cooperative consumers – and only cooperative consumers – can run for seats on the board.

Democratic member control is your right and responsibility.

#3 & #4 – The cooperative difference: economics, independence

There are differences when it comes to receiving electric service. Investor-owned utilities are for-profit, owned by shareholders. Electric cooperatives are not-for-profit and owned by you – the consumer or member.

Everyone understands the meaning of running a business and making a profit. What may not be quite as clear is what goes into forming a not-for-profit electric cooperative and sharing the benefits and responsibilities among its consumers, also known as its members.

Autonomy, independence

Another “cooperative difference” is autonomy and independence. Your cooperative is not owned by outsiders. This cooperative is owned by you and other consumers who receive its services, following democratic processes. Especially beneficial is the local control this brings.

So, get involved with your local electric cooperative; your voice is powerful. And don’t be afraid to just raise it at the local board meeting, raise it to congress to. Help us keep electricity safe, reliable and affordable by speaking out on behalf of your electric cooperative to your legislators. Your voice and your vote matter. 

  • Last modified: Tuesday, April 06, 2021

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