One of the convictions behind this booklet is that the language used in contemporary Canada to discuss co-operatives has become somewhat stale, rigid, and superficial. Co-operatives are highly adaptable and complex institutions; their essence cannot easily be captured by any simple formula or list of characteristics. The adoption of a new statement of co-operative identity and principles by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995 is one sign of new times: this list opened up new flexibility in structural features such as treatment of capital and surpluses, while adding new considerations such as concern of co-operatives for community. The ICA’s statement was not meant to end discussion of co-operative principles and practices, but rather to be a new beginning for the examination of approaches in more specific settings and types of co-operatives.
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