Cooperative History


1The first records of an existing cooperative come from Fenwick (Scotland), where, on March 14, 1761, in a barely furnished house, the spinners began selling the contents of an oat bag in the newly whitewashed front room at a discount. John Walker, forming the Fenwick Spinner Society.


There is much data confirming that cooperatives began to function as small community organizations in Western Europe, North America and Japan in the mid-19th century. But the Pioneers of Rochdale are generally considered the precursors of modern cooperative societies and the founders of the cooperative movement in 1844.


In 1844, a group of 28 artisans who worked in the cotton factories of the town of Rochdale, in the north of England, established the first modern cooperative enterprise, the Equitable Society of the Pioneers of Rochdale. The weavers had miserable working conditions and low wages, so they could not afford the high prices of food and household items. They thought that, by gathering their scarce resources and working together, they could access basic consumer goods at a low price. At first, there were only four products for sale: flour, oatmeal, sugar and butter.


The Pioneers decided that it was time for consumers to be treated with honesty, transparency and respect, that they should share the benefits according to their contribution and that they should enjoy the democratic right to have something to say in the business. Each customer of the store became a member of the cooperative, which aroused great interest in the business. At first it opened only two nights a week but, after three months, the business had grown so much that it worked five days a week.


An independent cooperative model developed in Germany by Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen and Franz Hermann Schultz-Delitsch. Raiffeisen and Schultz-Delitsch created the first credit cooperatives in 1862. Since then the model has grown, expanding to other sectors, and has inspired the development of financial cooperatives around the world.


2In 1995, the ACI adopted the revised Declaration on Cooperative Identity, which contains the definition of a cooperative, the values of cooperatives and seven cooperative principles.


Cooperative values

Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.


Cooperative Principles

Cooperative principles are the guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.


1. Voluntary and open association.

2. Democratic control of the members.

3. Economic participation of the partners.

4. Autonomy and independence.

5. Education, training and information.

6. Cooperation between cooperatives.

7. Feeling of community.



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