The Co-operative movement

“A co-operative is a group of people acting together to meet the common needs and aspirations of its members, sharing ownership and making decisions democratically.” Co-operative movements exist all over the world, as groups and organisations dedicated to achieving democratic trading and enterprise.

The Co-operative Group

A name which we all know as a local shop or bank, is one of the single largest movements in the world, comprising over 3750 retail outlets and over 70,000 employees worldwide.


But how did this movement begin? Origins of the Co-operative movement can be traced back to the Rochdale Pioneers who formed in 1844; they are credited for founding the modern movement which we know today, as an effort against poverty and to promote equality.

The 7 Rochdale principles of a cooperative

The Rochdale Principles are a set of ideals for the operation of cooperatives. They were first set out in 1844 by the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in Rochdale, England and have formed the basis for the principles on which co-operatives around the world continue to operate.


“Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.”


“Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.”


Member economic participation is one of the defining features of co-operative societies, co-operatives are enterprises in which

“Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative.”

This enshrines democratic control over the co-operative, and how its capital is used.


Co-operative societies must be autonomous and independent.

“Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.”


“Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.”


“Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.”


“Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.”