2012 IS THE INTERNAITONAL YEAR OF THE CO-OP
So, what is a "Co-op", anyway?
A co-operative (= "work together") exists to serve its member-owners. .... Period.
Today, cooperatives (also referred to as co-ops) are businesses that are owned and democratically controlled by their members — the people who buy their goods or use their services. They are not owned by investors. Unlike investor-owned businesses, cooperatives are organized solely to meet the needs of the member-owners, and specifically NOT to accumulate capital for investors. As democratically controlled businesses, many cooperatives practice the principle of "one member, one vote," providing members with equal control over the cooperative.
This is not a modern-day notion. Cooperation dates back as far as human beings have been organizing for mutual benefit. Clans and tribes were organized as cooperative structures, allocating jobs and resources among each other and only trading with the external communities, and in Morocco's rural mountain areas, this practice continues today. Why? Because it's practical, and it works!
Today over 800 million people worldwide are members of cooperatives, and co-ops provide 100 million jobs, which is 20% more than multinational enterprises. Whether providing wine in Portugal, handicrafts in Thailand, banking in France, food and household goods in Switzerland, milk in Malta, cheese, hardware and butter in the US, fruit in Cyprus, farming in New Zealand or childcare in Sweden, co-ops are part and parcel of making societies and economies work, while empowering people and abiding by the values and principles originally outlined by the Rochdale Pioneers, who set up their co-op in Lancashire, England in 1844. (Could they have imagined that an idea they had developed to meet the needs of shoppers in their home town, would be adopted across the world?)
Cooperatives today abide by 7 internationally recognized Cooperative ("Rochdale") Principles:
- Voluntary and Open Membership
- Democratic Member Control
- Member Economic Participation
- Autonomy and Independence
- Education, Training and Information
- Cooperation Among Cooperatives
- Concern for Community
More and more Moroccan women and girls are interested in forming co-ops to empower themselves, as they see that this structure can enable them to create income together, which in turn will lead to greater opportunities for themselves and their children. I also see this as sowing more seeds for democracy. Once people experience positive actions leading to positive consequences, that speaking up and participating in decision-making can make a difference in the outcome, and that looking out for the greater good can only bring about mutual prosperity, they are far more likely to hold their representatives accountable because they have learned that power and authority can achieve far more good when executed with an equal amount of responsibility and accountability.
Support your local co-op ... and help start a new one in Morocco!