The Cooperative Principles
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Envisioned in 1844 by a group of weavers in Rochdale, England, the Seven Cooperative Principles guide credit unions and cooperatives throughout the world.

Learn more about the story and legacy of the Rochdale Pioneers
in this video.

From very modest means and difficult circumstances, the 28 founders of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers came together in 1844 to solve a pressing community need - access to affordable, healthy food. Their efforts not only helped the Pioneers feed their families, but their commitment to Seven Cooperative Principles sparked a worldwide movement.

Today, more than 1 billion people are members of co-ops! From food to banking, and taxis to snake catchers, you'll find co-ops involved in a variety of businesses. Each cooperative has a commitment to community and improving the life of members - just like the Rochdale Pioneers did two centuries ago.


The Seven Cooperative Principles. Envisioned by the Rochdale Pioneers as the values that would inform how their cooperative conducted business, the Seven Cooperative Principles continue to serve as guideposts for cooperatives around the world. While the principles have been updated from their original form in 1844, they continue to champion democracy, equality, ownership and mutual self-help worldwide.

Principle One:
Voluntary and open membership. Credit unions are voluntary, not-for profit financial cooperatives, offering affordable financial solutions to those eligible and willing to accept the responsibilities and benefits of membership, without discrimination.
Principle Two:
Democratic member control. Credit unions are democratic organizations owned and controlled by their members, with equal opportunity for participation in setting policies and making decisions. Therefore, each member has one vote.
Principle Three:
Member economic participation. Members are the owners of credit unions. As such, they contribute to the capital of their credit union and directly impact its financial success. Members realize benefits in proportion to their relationship with their credit union and use of its products and services.
Principle Four:
Autonomy and independence. Credit unions are independent, self-reliant organizations controlled by their member-owners, not outside stockholders. Credit unions entering into agreements with other organizations must ensure continued democratic control by the members.
Principle Five: 
Education, training, and information. Credit unions educate and train members, employees and volunteers so they can contribute effectively to the development of the credit union. In addition, credit unions provide financial education for their members and the public.
Principle Six: 
Cooperation among cooperatives. Credit unions serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative principles by working with other cooperatives through local, state, regional, national, and international structures.
Principle Seven: 
Concern for community. Credit unions work for the sustainable development of communities through policies developed and accepted by the members. Credit unions seek to achieve a greater good through responsible corporate citizenship.


Seven Principles Video. In the video to the left, you can hear how your colleagues in North Carolina and South Carolina describe the Seven Cooperative Principles. Each principle is explained using storytelling and analogies.

The Seven Principles Blog. The Seven Principles Blog shares how credit unions in North Carolina and South Carolina continue to honor the Seven Cooperative Principles in their day-to-day operations. Director of Cooperative Initiatives Jeff Hardin produces content for the Seven Principles Blog. Submit blog ideas or releases to Jeff at 919-457-9063 or

Visit the Seven Principles Blog.

Want to Learn More? The League offers several training opportunities, including the Principles & Philosophy Conference, a two-day "deep dive" into the history and principles of credit unions & co-ops. The League also provides customized principles training events to your credit union upon request. These events are appropriate for all levels of credit union staff and may be from one hour to one day in length. For more information, please contact Jeff Hardin, the League's director of cooperative initiatives, at 919-457-9063.

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