Voluntary and open membership: The First Cooperative Principle

A drawn image of a crowd of people of all colors

I don’t know about you, but I want to keep going. Earlier this week, I posted my thoughts on the seven principles of cooperation as maintained by the International Cooperative Alliance.

But that piece only scratched the surface. Each of these principles needs a review in turn. And there is no better place to begin than the very first principle – voluntary and open membership.

Please Note: I want to take a moment once again to acknowledge this handout prepared by Synergy Credit Union in Saskatchewan. It does a beautiful job of presenting these principles in simple and straightforward terms.

Voluntary and open membership – What it means to you

No matter what your financial situation looks like, the door is open, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination. (See note above)

As I read this first principle, I think about how it is getting more difficult to find examples of this principle in action. The “war against Woke” now appears to be spreading north of the 49th Parallel and around the world. Is that simply a symptom of a world where change continues apace? Where AI and ChatGPT “threaten” to fundamentally change the workplace. I mean, I don’t know about you but I grew up with a black and white TV, watched what was at that moment, and ran to answer the phone that was attached to the wall.

But we can’t let the change we see in the world around us affect the people around us. I appreciate the idea that at our credit union, we can find acceptance no matter what our gender identity might be, where we fit in a social context, or how we or others around us see our racial profile; we are welcome. And our political perspective or religious outlook are not barriers to inclusion either. I simply ask that whatever courtesy I offer you is offered in return.

It’s what living in a civil society is all about.

In a credit union, membership has meaning and is available to everyone

Because a credit union is there to help its members manage their financial lives, then open membership means that your financial situation cannot be a barrier by itself. And you and I know that membership is only the beginning.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a high school student trying to use a savings account to save money from your summer job, a new Canadian seeking a community in which to begin building a financial identity, or a college grad just getting started in the professional world (to name a few). You are welcome to join your local credit union, get settled and get started.

Or maybe you just want to be somewhere you feel welcome – a place that shares your values. Your credit union can offer you that and so much more.

The News intrudes again…

As I prepared to post this today, I was reminded of two pieces in the news that I think bear mention. First, today is the International Day of Peace as declared by the United Nations. Its theme of Peace Begins With Me resonates with my understanding of the inclusive intention of the cooperative intention behind voluntary and open membership.

After all, that pledge contains a commitment by the new member to join (voluntary) and to be accepted (open) and is a goal to be strived for.

In contrast, yesterday saw demonstrations and counter-demonstrations around the inclusion of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculums in Canada. To be clear, I stand with the counter-demonstrators striving to include these discussions and their efforts to protect LGBTQ+ students in our school. And I believe that we can only speak of an open and inclusive society when we protect these students.

For a more uplifting experience, I would like to offer this: Michael Douglas, Nancy Ajram & others join UN Peacekeeping in the fight for peace | United Nations

Please share this message with others if you agree, and message me here if you want to carry on the conversation. It’s essential to an open and democratic society.