What Does Democracy Have to Do with Cooperatives?

We often refer to cooperatives as “democratic enterprises.” But what does that really mean? Ashland Food Co-op, like all other co-ops, is owned and controlled by the people who use its services. We talk about how “you own it” but not much about how “you control it.” You may hear things like, “we vote with our dollars” when it comes to supporting your local cooperative. But that gives the idea that as consumers, you only have dollars with which to vote! It is so much more than that.

As consumer-owners you have your voices to bring to open discussion, deliberation, and consultation about how our co-op moves forward with our mission. And you have your democratic vote when it comes to electing board directors to represent you.

Co-op scholar Michael Healy says, “As owners of locally controlled businesses, we cooperators are learning how to do the great work of society, and in doing that work for our local community, we can also affect the larger society in which we live.”

Activist Howard Zinn says that democracy is not a series of votes; it is a series of actions. Notice that democracy is not equated just with voting, but with actively participating and discussing. As one of the 10 Cooperative Principles, the study of democracy is essential to deepen the relationship between the Co-op and its owners. It’s also a big part of actualizing the global co-op call to “Build a Better World.”

These three events in March are designed for you to bring your voice to open discussion and consultation. We hope you’ll attend at least one, if not all three. More detailed descriptions are on our website: ashlandfood.coop

  • Wednesday March 7 at 6:30pm join fellow co-op owners for Co-op Cheers: Beer with the Board. This FREE gathering aims to foster good communication and comradery between co-op owners and the Board. Beer and snacks provided. You bring your topic for conversation for board members.
  • Thursday March 15 at 7pm attend Democracy from the Inside Out: A Free Discussion about Citizen Participation. This event is part of Oregon Humanities’ Conversation Project. Expect a robust facilitated discussion about how to hear our own consciences and discern right action.
  • Wednesday March 21 at 7pm – Have you ever thought of running for our Board of Directors? If you’re not sure what this entails, attend the Prospective Board Candidate Reception and get answers to all your Board service questions. Light refreshments served.

About Ashland Food Coop

Ashland Food Co-op is a consumer cooperative that operates for the benefit of our owners. It’s simple to own your share of the Co-op. Just make a one-time, refundable equity investment of $100. You may pay in full or make an initial $10 payment! You’ll be reminded at the register when another quarterly $10 payment is due until your $100 equity purchase is paid. In return, the Co-op pledges to operate for the long-term health of our community. Unlike most businesses that make decisions primarily to maximize profits, cooperatives make decisions to maximize service to their owners and the community.

More on how to become an Owner