The first modern cooperative is rooted in 1840s England. Credit unions are member-owned cooperatives that follow the same seven cooperative principles ever since the very first one was established in 1849. Dane County Credit Union has also followed the principles since our own beginnings in 1937.
In our first post of the Seven Principles of Cooperatives series, we covered the principle of ‘voluntary and open membership.’ Here, we’ll be tackling ‘democratic member control.’
Democracy in credit unions
Some people feel that the most important feature of any cooperative is its democratic nature – one person, one vote. But that’s just the beginning of bringing democracy to life within a cooperative. From member-owners to staff and management to the board of directors, each has an essential role and the cooperative opportunity (in the new mantra) to own, use, serve, and belong. 1
It’s up to you
Each credit union member has an equal opportunity to participate in the decision-making processes.
In fact, according to the International Cooperative Alliance, “Cooperatives are … controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership.”
It’s incredibly important that our member-owners are the ones who vote other member-owners into positions of power. These folks will have the most say as to what happens with the direction of the credit union and the members’ money. This is unlike, say, a bank, who can pick and choose whomever it likes to be on its board. At DCCU an election decides the board of directors prior to our annual member meeting.
This process is the same as how the popular vote works in Wisconsin’s local and statewide elections; whomever gets the most votes, gets elected. And that person’s main goal is to properly represent the needs of the voters.
This important principle ensures that credit union member-owners have a voice and are represented fairly.
1 – Cooperative Grocer Network, “Co-op Principles Then and Now (Parts 1 and 2)” David Thompson