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Cooperative Principles

You've Got Power, And It's Not Just Electricity!

Cooperatives are examples of democracy in action. Cooperatives succeed because of the power of people working together. As a member of a cooperative, you join the one out of every four Americans who belong to these consumer-owned organizations. A cooperative is formed by joining together to accomplish a goal that cannot be done as well individually. In our case, this started with providing central station electric service and has since branched out into a variety of other services.

At Oakdale Electric Cooperative, you are not "just a customer." Instead, you are a member-owner of this private, nonprofit business. Unlike customers of investor-owned utilities, you, as a cooperative member, have a say in determining the leadership of the cooperative, how it will operate and which services it will provide.

The members, customers like you, elect fellow members to serve as directors of the cooperative. Each member has one vote in the directors' election, which takes place at the annual membership meeting held in April. The directors set policy and oversee the general operation of the cooperative. They also hire the general manager, who implements the policies and is responsible for the daily operation of the cooperative through the actions of its employees. The employees provide service to the members, thus completing the "circle of cooperation."

The Seven Cooperative Principles


  1. Voluntary and open membership. Because cooperatives are voluntary organizations, membership is open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
  2. Democratic member control. Oakdale Electric members have equal voting rights. It doesn't matter how much electricity a member consumes. When it comes to electing directors, each member has one vote.
  3. Member economic participation. Members contribute equitably to the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative.
  4. Autonomy and independence. Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations, controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
  5. Education, training and information. New challenges and new technologies affect your cooperative and the entire utility industry. Ensuring our continuing effectiveness can only be accomplished by providing information and training to the members and public, our employees, staff and directors.
  6. Cooperation among cooperatives. We are "working together, working for you," on many levels. Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-op movement by participating in local, state, regional, national and international cooperative organizations.
  7. Concern for community. This principle focuses on members' needs and prompts cooperatives to work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.

    Welcome to Cooperative America
    Every minute of every day cooperatives are impacting the lives of Americans. Because this unique form of private enterprise is a powerful economic force, we have created this publication to celebrate its importance to our nation.

    A Day in the Life of Cooperative America was first published in 1994 to both describe the diversity of cooperatives and celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Rochdale Pioneers, the 28 workers in England who formed the first successful cooperative in 1844. From that humble beginning has grown a business model replicated across our country—and around the world.
    (Click here to read about cooperatives and their role in America)


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