Although cooperation as a basic human impulse has helped humanity thrive, cooperatives as formal businesses are a fairly recent development. Cooperative businesses began to appear a few hundred years ago. These earliest attempts consisted mainly of small groups in local communities, with no larger connections forged. This lack of connectivity ended with the formation in 1844 of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers.
From very modest means and difficult circumstances, the 28 founders of the Rochdale Pioneers came together to solve a pressing community need – access to affordable, healthy food. Their efforts not only helped the Pioneers feed their families, but their commitment to a set of operating principles sparked a worldwide movement.
The operating principles forged by the Rochdale Cooperative served as a blueprint for other cooperative societies forming in Europe and eventually North America. Formally adopted in 1937 by the International Cooperative Alliance, the Cooperative Principles unify the worldwide cooperative movement. Today, more than 1 billion people are members of co-ops! From food to banking, and taxis to snake catchers, you’ll find co-ops involved in a variety of businesses. Each cooperative has a commitment to community and improving the life of members.
Envisioned by the Rochdale Pioneers as the values that would inform how their cooperative conducted business, the Cooperative Principles continue to serve as guideposts for cooperatives around the world. While the principles have been updated through the years, they continue to champion democracy, equality, ownership and mutual self-help worldwide.
Today, an exciting conversation is taking place around the Eighth Cooperative Principle for Credit Unions. Envisioned by Local Government FCU CEO Maurice Smith in 2019, the Eighth Cooperative Principle commits credit unions to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The principle was formally adopted by the US credit union movement in 2019. The Foundation proudly endorses the Eighth Cooperative Principle and supports its inclusion in both the business practices of credit unions as well as educating employees, directors, members and others about its importance to the future of the movement.
Want to Learn More?
The Foundation offers principles training opportunities, including the Principles & Philosophy Conference, a two-day “deep dive” into the history and principles of credit unions & co-ops. The Foundation also provides customized principles training events to your credit union upon request. These events are appropriate for all levels of credit union staff and may be from one hour to one day in length. For more information, please contact Jeff Hardin, the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation’s director of collaborative programs, at 336-601-1764.