ACE Hardware, State Farm, REI, Land O’Lakes and JOEMC all share something in common: we’re all cooperatives. We may be in different industries, but we all share a passion for serving our members and helping our communities to thrive. In fact, all cooperatives adhere to the same set of seven principles that reflect our core values of honesty, transparency, equity, inclusiveness and service to the greater community good. October is National Co-op Month, so this is the perfect time to reflect on these principles that have stood the test of time and provide a future framework. Let’s take a look at a few of the cooperative principles.
Voluntary and Open Membership
Just like all co-ops, Jones-Onslow was created out of necessity—to meet a need that would have been otherwise unmet in our community. A group of neighbors banded together and organized our electric co-op so everyone in our community could benefit. They worked together for the benefit of the whole community, and the newly established electric lines helped power economic opportunity in our community.
While this history may be forgotten, key parts of that heritage remain—the focus on our mission and serving the greater good and helping to improve the quality of life and economic opportunity for the entire community. Membership is open to everyone in our service territory, regardless of race, religion, age, disability, gender identity, language, political perspective or socioeconomic status.
Democratic Member Control
Our co-op is well suited to meet the needs of our members because we are locally governed. Each member gets a voice and a vote in how the co-op is run; each voice and vote are equal. JOEMC’s leadership team and employees live right here in the community. Our board of directors, who help set long-term priorities for the co-op, also live locally on co-op lines. Neighbors, like you, have elected these board members. We know our members have a valuable perspective, and that’s why we are continually seeking your input and encourage you to weigh in on important co-op issues. Our close connection to this community ensures we get a first-hand perspective on members’ priorities, thereby enabling us to make more informed decisions on long-term investments that will benefit the cooperative.
Members’ Economic Participation
As a utility, our mission is to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy to our members. But as a co-op, we are also motivated by service to the community rather than profits. Members contribute equitably to and democratically control the capital of JOEMC. At least part of that capital remains the common property of the cooperative and these surpluses are allocated for co-op programs, initiatives, capital investments and supporting community activities.
Because seven cooperative principles guide us, it’s not just about dollars—it’s about an opportunity for all and being fair when engaging with our members. The cooperative way is a values-based business model.
Jones-Onslow EMC is a reflection of our local community and its evolving needs. We view our role as a catalyst for good and making our corner of the world a better place. And by the way, that sums up the seventh co-op principle, “concern for community,” which I’ll elaborate on in a future column.