About co-ops, and the 7 cooperative principles

Cooperatives have been around for hundreds of years, since Benjamin Franklin formed the first mutual insurance company in Philadelphia.

Today’s cooperatives trace their origins to England’s Industrial Revolution, when cooperative initiatives were common and offered their working class members the promise of economic opportunity and democratic control. But until the founding of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society in 1844, none were successful. When the self-described “Rochdale Pioneers” opened their first cooperative food shop, they sold only five products – butter, flour, oatmeal, sugar, and candles – but promised to provide members with “purest provisions, giving full weight and measure.” They went on to establish many other member-owned businesses.

The founders of the Rochdale society developed a series of operating principles. Today, these basic principles still guide cooperatives around the world.

The seven cooperative principles are:

  1. Voluntary and open membership
  2. Democratic member control
  3. Member economic participation
  4. Autonomy and independence
  5. Education, training, and information
  6. Cooperation among cooperatives
  7. Concern for community