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We are structured as a "Solidarity Cooperative"  

What does this mean for us?  What does it mean for you?

Cooperatives 101

  • A cooperative business is a type of incorporated business, similar to incorporating as an LLC, S Corp, C Corp or non-profit.  Cooperative laws change state to state, but in Oregon a Cooperatively owned business may be registered as a "Cooperative Corporation".  The Vital Compass is registered as a Cooperative Corporation in Oregon.

  • A cooperative business is a for-profit business.  A non profit may be run with cooperative principles (read on for more about this).  But, the profit of the cooperative goes to support all of its owners, rather than investors or just a single owner.  

  • "One member, one vote".  A member is considered a part owner of the business.  Each member gets one vote on issues that are pertinent to them.    Members are elected to and represented by our board of directors.  The board is elected every two years.

For more information about Coops in general, visit the International Cooperative Alliance webpage

The Seven Cooperative Principles

The Seven Cooperative Principles are guidelines for all Cooperatively owned businesses to follow, use and interpret as they form, manage and grow their businesses and communities.  They have been in formal development since 1844 in Rochdale, England but have likely been used across cultures for much longer.  

The following has been paraphrased from the ICA website.

1. Voluntary and Open Membership

Membership is open to all persons able to use the services of the Cooperative and accept responsibilities of membership without gender, social, racial, political or religious or any other discrimination.

2. Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are democratic institutions controlled by their members who actively participate in policy and decision making.

3. Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equally to, and democratically control the capital of their cooperative.

4. Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous organizations controlled by their members.  They are not beholden to any organization or interest other then their own.  

5. Education, Training, Information

Cooperatives provide education for all of their members so that they can effectively contribute to the organization.  

6.Cooperation Among Cooperatives

Cooperatives seek to serve the movement toward cooperative business structures as a whole by participating in local, national and international organizations and structures.  

7. Concern for Community

Coops work for the sustainable development of their communities through their policies developed by membership.

Guiding Principles at The Vital Compass:

what "The Seven Cooperative principles" mean for us

In forming and developing our business, we have interpreted the principles to focus our business on the things important to and useful for us and our communities.  

1. Voluntary and Open Membership

The Vital Compass is owned by two groups of members, the clinicians and employees who work at the shop  (worker owners)and outside practitioners and students of herbal medicine who can use our medicinary and educational services for their own benefit (member owners).  Anyone who can benefit from membership is welcome to join (read more on our membership page).  Non-members are welcome to use our services as well.  We seek to intentionally build a community of member owners that is socially just and anti-oppressive.  

2. Democratic member control

Our board is made up of 5 members, three worker owners and two member owners.  The board meets at least once per year, but more as necessary to decide on any major changes the direction of the Cooperative may take and on financial matters pertaining to our membership.  Any member owner or worker owner is eligible to be elected onto our board.  We also hold annual member wide meetings to collect the ideas, experiences and opinions of our membership as well as to share information about the development of the business as a whole. 

3. Member Economic Participation

Member owners pay a one time buy in of $100.  This may be paid at once or over time as agreed upon.  Members retain capital within the coop as well as receive economic benefit through register discounts as well as dividends in profitable years as determined by the board.  

4. Autonomy and Independence

The Vital Compass is owned and controlled entirely by its members/owners.  We are able to govern ourselves as we see fit within the framework of cooperative values and of course, local and federal government regulations. 

5. Education, Training and Information

We have a broad interpretation of this principle that includes education about cooperative business structures, herbal education and social justice within our communities.  We routinely offer classes around all of these topics. (See our calendar of classes here).  We are an NCCAOM certified provider of continuing education for diplomates of the NCCAOM.

6. Cooperation among Cooperatives

The Vital Compass is a member of the USFWC, has a working repationship with Shared Capital Cooperative and is active on the board of the WWCC.  We welcome any inquiries about our business structure to parties who may be interested in devloping their own cooperative or who are actively engaged in this process.  We have offered classes at the American Herbalist Guild Conference as well as at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine on this topic.  We are happy to come to your institution to share our experience, provide clarity about cooperatively owned businesses or offer a class.  We also seek to support cooperatives within our field of herbal and Chinese medicine through business relationships.  

7. Concern for Community

This is a big one for us.  We see our business as a unique intersection within several communities.  Our worker and member owners come from many ethnicities, traditions, sexualities and gender expressions and engage with the practice of a traditionally Chinese medicine at a brick and mortar business situated in a historically African American community.  We honor and respect our community, past, present and future, while we seek to reduce suffering with the practice and education of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage.  We want our community of neighbors and patients to be the healthiest they are able, our community of practitioners to be well educated about the things that will help them succeed in their medicine and our community of owners to be empowered in their relationship with our business.  Our concern extends to the national community as we provide alternative healthcare to a nation of undeserved and oppressed populations and an international community whose well being is directly tied to a healthy planet earth.  Concern for community is what got us here as well as what keeps us going.  

Learn more about cooperatives

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