At the board meeting of May 28, 2010, the directors of Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative passed a resolution to adopt the following statement of values and principles as an official document of the cooperative. You can download this statement in PDF form by clicking here.
We relied heavily on the International Co-operative Alliance’s Statement on the Co-operative Identity as a basis for creating our statement of values and principles. The values are exactly the same, and we adapted the the principles slightly to take our situation and goals into account.
Values tend to be very general statements of the sorts of outcomes we want to promote through our activities, as we work towards our goals (which are stated in the Statement of Purpose clause of our Memorandum of Association). They are valuable reference points for the sort of organization we hope to build. But they don’t do much to tell us how we are supposed to achieve those outcomes. Merely saying that you believe in the value of democracy does not produce democracy in the world.
Principles come closer to spelling out how we want to realize our values. They don’t st in a one-to-one relationship to values, but each value should figure in one or more principles, so that the set of principles is like a more concrete statement of our value and show we see them playing out in the world. If values are the atoms of our organizational culture, principles are like the molecules.
But even principles aren’t specific and detailed enough. Take for example the statement “Elected representatives are accountable to the membership,” which appears in the principle of Democratic Member Control. We need to know exactly what we mean by that: monthly newsletters? Annual elections? A committee of members which evaluates the performance of directors on a regular basis?
Here is where policies enter the picture. The directors of Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative are working on formalizing our policies, but this is a big job and will never be fully complete. The best we can do is to identify when a question that comes before the board deserves to have a more formal and long-lasting answer. In the case of a question such as “Where should we hold our AGM this year?”, there is no need to make a policy. When we answer the question, we can move on and not have to think about this until next year. But once we start thinking about questions such as whether we must hold our AGMs in a room and facility which is accessible to people with physical disabilities, then we’re entering into the territory of policy. And we can attach this policy to the principle of Voluntary and Open Membership to the values of equality, equity, and solidarity.
For the principle of Concern for Community and Environment, there are endless numbers of policies we might enunciate. Do we want to go 100% plastic-free? Is that even feasible? How do we balance our desire to reduce plastic (and other) waste against our need to steward the financial shares of our members? Getting the tradeoffs ‘right’ — or if not ‘right’ then good enough to satisfy the greatest number of members — is a tremendous challenge. But the important thing is to answer these questions out in the open, letting our members know how the board sees the tradeoffs, presenting the pros an cons of all positions as fairly and honestly as we can. And we are committed to that, not least because we have formally adopted the values of honesty and openness and the related principle of Education, Training and Information.
So what exactly is the point of having a statement of values and principles? For one thing, they serve to remind our membership who we are and what we stand for. When things get confusing or turbulent, they should help bring us back to our original vision and help us remember why we are doing what we’re doing.
These are always works in progress. New situations and new challenges provoke thinking about new values, principles, and policies to put some teeth into values and principles. For now, here is our first statement of values and principles:
We endorse and adopt the values enshrined in the International Co-operative Alliance’s Statement on the Co-operative Identity:
- Social responsibility;
- Caring for others.
We endorse and adopt the seven principles enshrined in the International Co-operative Alliance’s Statement on the Co-operative Identity, adapting them to our unique situation as follows.
Voluntary Open Membership
The Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative is a voluntary organization, open to all persons able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.
Democratic Member Control
The Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative is a democratic organization controlled by its members, who actively participate in setting its policies and making decisions. Elected representatives are accountable to the membership. Members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote).
Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of the Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative. That capital is our common property. Because we are a not-for-profit cooperative, we will use all surpluses for further developing the cooperative, for setting up reserves against future needs, and for supporting other community projects as our members see fit.
Autonomy and Independence
The Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative is an independent self-help organization controlled by its members. If we enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, we will do so on terms that ensure democratic control by our members, maintain our cooperative autonomy, and do not compromise our vision, values, or principles.
Education, Training and Information
The Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative provides education and training for all of its members, so that they can contribute effectively to the development of the cooperative and to the general well-being of the surrounding community. We inform the general public — particularly young people opinion leaders — about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
We believe that shared knowledge and skills are the lifeblood of the local food economy, and we actively create opportunities for people to exchange knowledge skills. We engage people of all ages all backgrounds, and we work to preserve traditional knowledge skills and help pass them from elders to younger members of the community.
Cooperation among Cooperatives
The Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative serves its members most effectively and strengthens the cooperative movement by working together with other cooperatives through local, national, regional and international structures.
Concern for Community and Environment
We work for the sustainable development of our community through policies approved by our members. We work within the framework of the triple bottom line, seeking at all times to produce economic, environmental, and social benefits without sacrificing any one of these.
We also adopt the following principles…
The Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative is committed to increasing its members’ ability to provide for themselves and for their families, friends, and neighbourhoods. We believe in giving our members opportunities to educate themselves, to mentor and be mentored, and to have hands-on experience producing, preserving, and preparing food. We encourage our members to create and manage projects which will give them experience in small business creation. And we actively help our members acquire the skills and confidence to assume positions of responsibility in the cooperative.
The Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative works towards the development of a strong local food economy, by encouraging the production of new crops and value-added processing, by helping to build a network of sharing and mutual trading, by supporting markets for existing goods and services and creating markets for new ones.
Fairness and transparency
We believe that people can should share power fairly and responsibly. We spread decision-making powers as widely as possible, using term limits and other policies which will give all of our members the opportunity to hold positions of responsibility. We let everyone know what we are doing by freely publishing information on our goals and projects, using plain language.