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In this article, we will dig into the values of cooperatives and the principles of dynamic governance and see how Co-op principles align with Sociocracy

The Cooperative identity, values & principles (ICA Values) are self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity.

Sociocracy, as a system of self-governance, shares all of the above values – from the self-help and self-responsibility of organizing collectively to actively contribute to solving problems and improving our lives (whether in work, co-housing, activism, community organizing), prioritizing a form of deeply democratic participative governance, and supporting equality (one member one voice), equity (fairness through meeting the needs of all who engage) and solidarity. 

Sociocratic principles align perfectly with co-operative principles. Both emphasize the people within an organization and the values that hold them together, and both seek to create governance systems that value democratic member control alongside prioritizing ongoing opportunities for learning and development. 

See the full comparison about Co-op principles align with Sociocracy on the table below:

Co-operative PrinciplesSociocracy

1. Voluntary and Open Membership

Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, 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.

Open and accessible to all without discrimination, formed by the free choice (consent) of all involved.

2. Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are democratic organizations 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 cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are also organized democratically.

Active participation in policies and decision making through circle working

Democratic member control – consent rights for all circle members

Delegated responsibilities and accountability

Elections – open and accountable selections process to democratically select members 

Transparency – open access to information, often including open access to minutes and agendas across organizations

3. Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. 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 cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

Sociocratic governance enables members to participate in the decision making around the capital (from strategic planning for the co-op and its trading activities, to use of reserves and member compensation) in common with other areas of decision making. Crucial for co-ops – capital is in service to the people providing labor in the organization, and not the other way around. A co-op is more than just an economic entity – it has social value too (matching the sociocratic value of connection).

Equitable contributions e.g. membership fees based on affordability, to create a common pool of capital to finance activities. 

4. Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.

As with co-ops generally, all are bound by common values and principles, but individual organizations are accountable to their own members first and foremost (and regulations guiding activity within the country in which they are based). 

Consent principle.

5. Education, Training, and Information

Cooperatives 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.

Commitment to training to enable participation – promoting opportunities to engage with the underlying principles and values of sociocracy to enable members to practice/live them. 

Education / training / understanding as fundamental to transformation.

6. Cooperation among Cooperatives

Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

Creating connections across continents to bring practitioners together for mutual support, and recognition of the effectiveness of working together to learn from each other.

7. Concern for the Community

Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

A broad understanding of sustainable communities, including geographical and communities of interest, and being the change we want to see at a global level!
Meeting needs. 
Concern for all.