Cooperatives can be used to address a multitude of shared needs: Producers like farmers, artisans or industrialists utilize the cooperative to market or process their goods jointly. Workers in areas as diverse as bicycle sales, baked goods production and catalog sales use cooperatives to create employment that offers many of the benefits of ownership. Wages or income directly corresponds to the economic results of the business. They have more control over their work. Consumers use cooperatives to gain better prices, acquire unique goods and services, or to meet social or cultural community needs. Private business or public entities gain purchasing power through bulk buying, obtaining products or services that are difficult to obtain individually.
The International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), composed of cooperative leaders world wide, has established seven basic guiding principles that are are used by all types of cooperatives through out the world as their model. The Lompoc Co-op Development Project considers these core concepts.
- Voluntary and open membership. Cooperatives are voluntary organizations and membership is non-discriminatory by gender, social, racial, political or religious beliefs.
- Democratic member control. Cooperatives are controlled by members who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
- Economic participation. Members contribute equitably to the capital of their cooperative.
- Autonomy and independence. Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members.
- Education, training and information. To foster the development of a cooperative, education and training for members, elected representatives, managers, and employees is provided.
- Cooperation among cooperatives. To serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement, cooperatives work together.
- Concern for community. While focusing on members’ needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.