Bedrock Principles

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

In an age of uncertainty and unrest, the turning of the seasons reminds us of a larger purpose, a greater power, a comforting certainty. The lacy pale-green leaf wisps of spring become the deep green canopy of summer, which transforms wondrously into the vibrant kaleidoscope of autumn color that we savor for a few precious weeks, before the tree limbs stretch dark and bare against the wintry sky.

This seasonal certainty forms a bedrock foundation for us, something we can count on. In a similar way, your electric cooperative adheres to seven principles that form the bedrock underlying how cooperative businesses operate, during times of plenty, and times of plentiful challenge. October is Cooperative Month, and so we share below a brief description of each of these seven core principles.

 #1  Voluntary and Open Membership

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. — Henry David Thoreau, 19th-century American writer, naturalist, historian and philosopher.

Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all who are able to use their services and who are willing to accept the responsibilities of being a member-owner.

#2  Democratic Member Control

Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and justice. — Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States (1945-’53).

Because cooperatives are democratic organizations, their member-owners take an active role in the business. These member-owners have equal voting rights — one member, one vote — and elect a board of directors to set the policies for their business.

#3  Members’ Economic Participation

Gather the gifts of earth with equal hand; Hence­forth ye, too, may share the birthright soil, The corn, the wine, and all the harvest-home. — E.C. Stedman, 19th-century American poet, critic and essayist.

Member-owners are also customers of their cooperative. If there are surpluses at the end of a given year, these “margins” are later returned to the member-owners when financial conditions permit.

#4  Autonomy and Independence

It is a blessed thing that in every age someone has had individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions. — Robert G. Ingersoll, 19th-century American political leader, orator and writer.

Cooperatives are autonomous, independent businesses controlled by their member-owners.

#5  Education, Training and Information

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. — Sir Richard Steele, 18th-century Irish writer, publisher and politician.

Cooperatives are committed to keeping their member-owners well-informed about their business.  Cooperatives also work hard to provide training and education for their employees and board members, to allow them to operate the business as efficiently and effectively as possible.

#6  Cooperation Among Cooperatives

Swing the shining sickle, Cut the ripening grain; Gather in the harvest, Fall is here again. — Traditional folk song.

Gathering in the harvest is a collective affair, as is operating a member-owned business. Multiple cooperatives often work together to minimize costs and maximize effectiveness in a wide array of areas.

#7  Concern for Community

I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaust­ible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. — William Faulkner, 20th-century Nobel Prize-winning American author.

Cooperatives are locally owned and locally controlled businesses that work first and foremost to serve their members’ needs. In addition, they work hard to be good corporate citizens, responsible environmental stewards, and active participants in providing for the sustainable development of the communities they serve.


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