If there is one who is familiar with Autonomy, it would be the co-operatives. To them, it is not a mere concept contained in a legalese gobbledygook. They know what it is. They live it. They can smell it. They practice it. And they value it. Well, at least most of them.

A co-op is an autonomous organization. The law so provides. They manage their own resources. They access funding from whom they want. And more importantly, they govern themselves with a series of policies and rules unique and applicable only to their group. As long as they are operating within the bounds of rules, regulations and relevant laws, they are left alone. The law even prohibits interference whatsoever from anybody including the government. This is one of the principles of co-op organizations around the world – Autonomy and Independence. This is formulated more than a hundred years ago during the formative years of the co-operatives.

They are in charge of their own affairs and their progress and development depends on how well they implement existing time-tested principles of co-operativism in their organization. The role of the government is to give them the juridical personality in order for them to become a duly registered formal organization that can transact business, enter into contracts, etc. They should also be provided with a healthy business environment that will allow them to thrive and prosper in their business endeavors. That is why they have privileges and benefits provided by law for this purpose like their tax exemption privilege.

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In organizing a co-op, it is crucial that the initiative comes from the people. More often than not, the formation of a co-op is to answer their needs such as the difficulty and inconvenience of accessing financial services. The more successful co-ops are those born out of a need. In fact, one of the earliest recorded problem that gave rise to the idea of a co-operative somewhere in Europe is the price of flour in the company store. The commodity is expensive when they buy individually. So, the workers studied a way how to acquire the flour at a cheaper price and they decided to pool their resources together to buy the flour at a wholesale price. Then, they observe that they were able to bring home more flour than before. And as they say, the rest is history.

If the purpose of organizing a co-op is for any other purpose other than a need, most likely it will struggle and worse, it will fail. The observation is that many of those that were organized because they just want to access some funds from the government or from a politician, did not last long. To some extent, some co-op organizers went their own separate ways, the moment they divided the grant among themselves.

This is what most people do not understand about Autonomy. It has to come from the people who share the same interest and aspirations just like a co-operative. A co-op succeeds because the members have a common bond of membership and share similar interest and objectives. If the organizers have different needs and interests, the struggle for unity, autonomy and success could lead to a painful disappointment. In our quest for Autonomy, we have to move heaven and earth to unite the interests and ideals of the different tribes.

One objective of autonomy in co-ops is people empowerment and to develop self-reliance in the people. They should not always rely on the government for support. The purpose is to shift from a powerless and dependent mindset to become a force to take charge of its well-being and do things to make things better for its life, to learn the value of hard work and forge the path for its destiny.

The successful co-ops are those who are willing to work their butts out day in and day out and not just wait for the manna from heaven.  We should also be willing to unearth all underlying issues especially from those against the Autonomy instead of talking about the amount of the funding we will eventually get in the event Autonomy will be successful.

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