Cooperatives have always been referred to as member-owned organizations, yet in countries where cooperatives have depended too heavily on outsiders for financial support, that sense of ownership and personal financial stake has been lost. It is not uncommon to hear farmers and shareholders refer to their cooperative as the governments cooperative instead of their own cooperative. This is largely because the financial stake or contribution of the membership of the cooperative is small relative to the non-member stake. In spite of the one-member-one-vote principle, the major suppliers of capital, in this case non-members, have the largest say and tend to determine the main priorities of the cooperative business. Cooperative member participation drops and the cooperative promise is weakened.
The aim of this booklet has been to re-focus attention on the importance of building the memberships financial stake in the cooperative. This increases the sense of collective ownership, makes the cooperatives management more accountable to serving members, strengthens member commitment and loyalty and thus provides a true and sustainable basis or cooperation.