In 2009 a group of like-minded residents of Kenmare got together and began buying whole foods from the UK. The main driver of this was price, but range and availability were also important. It soon became apparent that these prices were so good that it seemed possible to think of opening a shop!
Soon we were talking about Co-ops. Michael Gavin, one of the group who was doing a Masters at UCC on Co-ops was able to enlighten us on co-operative principle etc. and before long, we had decided to take that route.
It was envisaged that we would form a Workers Co-op. This model would have each working owning one share. We started meeting formally each month and developed our plans for the shop. Our theme and mission statement was agreed as, “Providing wholesome food at affordable prices and encouraging local production of same”.
Opening in September 2009, the shop was well received and sales grew steadily. There was some turnover of members in the early years as we all had to get used to a different way of working.
In 2011 the premises over the road became vacant and we decided to open a vegetarian café. This fitted so well with the shop. After a steady start, the café took off like a rocket and is now very popular with both locals and tourists.
Statement of the Co-operative Identity
A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economical, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.
Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.
1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, 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.
2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner).
3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.
5th Principle: 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-operative.
6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7th Principle: Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
Source; ICA, 15, routes des Morillons, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland
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