"A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise."
What does that mean in plain English? Basically, a cooperative is an organization controlled by the people who use it. It exists for the member's benefit. It is a democratic financial entity whose earnings and assets belong to its members. Cooperatives are based on values of self-help, collective responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity.
Often, we’re not aware of cooperatives because they exist in so many forms throughout the world. There are food, worker , bookstore, bicycle, agriculture, artist, and energy cooperatives. Credit unions are basically cooperative banks. You can find different forms of cooperatives just about anywhere if you look.
BCL is one particular type - a housing cooperative. In a housing, each resident is a member of the cooperative. Members collectively and democratically control their living space and the assets by voting in meetings.
Cooperatives, like BCL, that consist of students and general community members are fairly common near university campuses. They often seek to provide an affordable, alternative living space to dorms, sororities, fraternities, traditional residential housing, and apartments.
The North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO) formed in 1968 as a federation of housing cooperatives in North America. Traditionally, NASCO was associated with student housing, though non-student cooperatives (like BCL) are incorporated.
NASCO encourages the development of new and existing cooperatives, and it serves as an advocate for cooperatives to government, universities, and communities. NASCO teaches leadership skills and serves as a central link in facilitating the cooperative vision. BCL's membership in NASCO ties us to this larger cooperative community and movement. Every fall, BCL sends members to attend NASCO’s annual conference (known as “NASCO Institute”).
At Institute, hundreds of cooperators from around North America gather to learn new cooperative skills, attend workshops, share ideas, and discuss issues facing the cooperative movement around the world. BCL attends Institute each year en masse, and the members who attend come back brimming with new ideas on how to improve BCL.
The NASCO Family organizes and educates affordable group equity cooperatives and their members for the purpose of promoting a community-oriented cooperative movement.
To further our vision with cooperatives by providing resources, assisting in development, and encouraging cooperatives to continue active participation in the cooperative sector.
To achieve a socially and financially responsible North American cooperative economic sector for all people and organizations interested in applying the principles and practices of cooperation.
• 1st PRINCIPLE - VOLUNTARY AND OPEN MEMBERSHIP
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, 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
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Humans serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership.
• 3rd PRINCIPLE - MEMBER ECONOMIC PARTICIPATION
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the purposes to benefit the organization and it's members.
• 4th PRINCIPLES - AUTONOMY AND INDEPENDENCE
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members.
• 5th PRINCIPLES - EDUCATION, TRAINING, AND INFORMATION
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives.
• 6th PRINCIPLE - COOPERATION AMONG COOPERATIVES
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
• 7th PRINCIPLE - CONCERN FOR COMMUNITY
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.