July 31, 2017

Maintaining the purity of co-operative values

The values and principles embraced by the universal co-operative movement have evolved from the ideals of the early co-operators of the 18th and 19th centuries. They are embodied in the Statement of Co-operative Identity published by the International Co-operative Alliance. These are

- self-help
- self-responsibility
- democracy
- equality
- equity
- solidarity

In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of:
• Honesty
• Openness
• Social responsibility
• Caring for others

The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.

1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership
2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control
3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation
4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence
5th Principle: Education, Training and Information
6th Principle: Co-operation Among Co-operatives
7th Principle: Concern for Community

In our academies we interpret the values and principles in language that the children understand. This explains why the trust does not insist on particular words or phrases being used consistently across all academies leaving the interpretation to individual academies to develop. The Co-op has also encountered similar issues and this has led to the relatively recent development of ‘The Co-op Way’ and four behaviours or actions that epitomise what this means. They are:

• Do what matters most
• Be yourself, always
• Show you care
• Succeed together

Each academy is expected to embrace the values and principles and ethical values of the co-operative movement. It is not necessary to adopt ‘The Co-op Way’ and its behaviours unless it is helpful for a particular academy. It is unacceptable, however, to adopt just a few of the values and ethical values at the expense of others. These have been universally adopted and as such, the trust and The Co-op are not permitted to adopt a ‘take the ones you prefer’ approach. All of our academies ensure this is clear to children, parents and staff so that confusion doesn’t creep in.

So, individual academies are free to adopt phrases or statements that underpin their approach. A good example is at Co-op Academy Manchester where they have ‘Fairness, Ambition, Respect’.  These are, however, not the co-operative values so each academy will need to find ways of developing understanding of these through curriculum and communication channels.