Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Cooperative Alliance in 1995. The International Cooperative Alliance is a global membership association of cooperatives and cooperative support organizations. Cooperatives trace the roots of these principles to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England in 1844.
Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members - those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative - who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. Each year, North Central Electric members attend the annual meeting to elect at least three fellow members to the board of trustees. It doesn't matter how much electricity they consume. Each member gets just one and only one vote regardless of how many accounts a member might have or how much electric they purchase from the cooperative.
Members' Economic Participation
Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative, rather than on the capital invested. Since 1980, the cooperative has annually refunded patronage capital credits to members and former members. To date, North Central has issued $15.5 million in capital credits.
Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the cooperative enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintain the cooperative's autonomy. In Ohio, the electric cooperatives' autonomy is recognized by the legislature. Because members elect their own boards of trustees to set rates and approve contracts, the Ohio cooperatives do not fall under the auspices of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which must approve the rates of Investor Owned Utilities like American Electric Power and FirstEnergy.
Education, Training and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. For example, the cooperative often puts on electric safety demonstrations and provides vital energy efficiency information through Country Living magazine, this website and brochures.
Cooperation among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures. At North Central, a management and shared services cooperative - Federated Energy Services Cooperative - was formed in 1998 with Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative of Wellington to share personnel and equipment. In essence, one management team oversees two electric cooperatives. In addition, North Central is a member of Buckeye Power, the wholesale power supplier owned by the 24 Ohio electric cooperatives, the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives, Touchstone Energy and the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association.
Concern for Community
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members. Concern for Community was the exact reason, the cooperative established the Operation RoundUp Program and formed the North Central Electric People Fund in 1998. More than 80 percent of the members have their bills rounded up to the next dollar and the spare change is deposited into the People Fund. A separate board of trustees reviews and approves grant requests.