HISTORY OF CO-OPS


Although cooperatives started out as small grassroots organizations in Western Europe, North America and Japan in the middle of the nineteenth century, the Rochdale Pioneers are generally regarded to be the prototype for the cooperative model. The cooperative values and principles are based on the principles and values adopted by the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, founded in 1844.

In 1844 a group of 28 artisans working in the cotton mills in the town of Rochdale, in the north of England established the first modern cooperative business, the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society. The weavers faced miserable working conditions and low wages, and they could not afford the high prices of food and household goods. They decided that by pooling their scarce resources and working together they could access basic goods at a lower price. Initially, there were only four items for sale: flour, oatmeal, sugar and butter.

The Pioneers decided it was time shoppers were treated with honesty, openness and respect, that they should be able to share in the profits that their custom contributed to and that they should have a democratic right to have a say in the business. Every customer of the shop became a member and so had a true stake in the business. At first the co-op was open for only two nights a week, but within three months, business had grown so much that it was open five days a week.

Their original rules of conduct closely mirror the values of modern day cooperatives. 

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