The International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) has established seven principles as guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.
The Fifth Principle is 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.
Education is necessary to transform both individual lives and society at large. Cooperative organizations and cooperative movements are built around shared principles and values. These values must be communicated to everyone who participates in a cooperative economy. All cooperative enterprises depend upon the competence and skill of their members, thus success will be related to education. But coops do not function in isolation. Cooperative businesses must always see themselves within a broader ecosystem of business, government and culture.
Education is vital for individuals to develop necessary skills to further the aims of the co-op, as well as to become more effective citizens within the larger community. Participating in a cooperative means learning how to take part in democracy and requires both a theoretical and practical understanding of rights and responsibilities. Therefore, education, training and information must be accessible and available for everyone.
All Co-op members must be sufficiently knowledgeable of the values of cooperative enterprises to act as teachers and ambassadors when interacting with the general public. The Fifth Principle specifically points to educating young people and opinion leaders; there is a need to shine light on the cooperative model and offer an alternative structure for business entities and social organizations. Cooperatives can mitigate against the worst excesses of wealth disparity, climate crises, and the collapse of democracy… but only if people know how coops work.
So, educate yourself and educate others.
We believe that structures implement principles. Thoughtful and considered formation, or re-formation, of your business can give you bylaws, agreements, contracts, and policies that can place these values at the core of your organization, not just an afterthought.
What does education, information and training mean for your business?