How Did Co-ops Start?

This common bond of ideals and principles of modern cooperation is traced back to 1844 when a group of 29 weavers pooled their savings and opened the first successful consumer co-op on Toad Lane in Rochdale, England. These early co-opers saw themselves on a largely social mission, to provide for themselves cheap goods and services, which the burgeoning Industrial Revolution was keeping out of their reach in the service of personal profit. Their cooperative started out small, only selling a few staple items, but within a few years they had branched out generating annual sales of $100,000.

In bringing their social vision to life, the Rochdale Pioneers developed specific guidelines for the operation of their co-op. Today we call these guidelines the cooperative principles or Rochdale Principles. Though updated and modified, the principles bear the same social vision of these co-op pioneers. This vision has been shared by thousands of cooperatives around the world which have adopted these principles as their own, and used them to help organize cooperative businesses.