What Makes a Co-op Different?


The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) defines the standards by which all co-ops should operate: 


Cooperatives are based on the values of self-responsibility, self-help, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity.  In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others. 

The Seven Cooperative Principles 


Co-ops worldwide share a common creed.  They share a fundamental respect for all human beings and a belief in people’s capacity to improve themselves economically and socially through mutual help.  This basic philosophy has been developed into a list of seven principles: 


Open and voluntary membership.

Co-ops are open to all who can make use of their services and are willing to accept the responsibilities involved. 


Autonomy and independence.

Cooperatives are independent, self-help organizations controlled by their members. They limit the influence of outside agencies or business partners to ensure their independence. 


Concern for community.

While member needs are their primary concern, cooperatives also work for the sustainable development of their communities.


Member economic participation.

Members provide the basic capital (money) to start and operate the co-op.  If co-ops pay dividends to their member owners, the rate must be limited. Surplus, or profit, resulting from operations belongs to the members and they control how it will be distributed. If a co-op’s surplus is returned to members, it is distributed in proportion to the amount of business each member has conducted with the cooperative.


Education, training, and information.

Co-ops have an obligation to educate members about cooperative business. This mandate also encompasses educating the general public, young people, and community leaders about the nature and benefits of cooperation. 


Democratic member controls.

All co-op members have equal voting and decision-making power in the governance of the business, on the basis of one vote per member. 


Cooperation among cooperatives.

To bring the theory of working together full circle, co-ops recognize the vital importance of working with other co-ops—locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Through these efforts, co-ops try to help each other—to strengthen their economic positions and to contribute to the co-op movement.

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Foremost Brewing Cooperative

131 West Broadway

Owatonna, MN 55060



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524 Agnes Street

Owatonna, MN 55060

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