The first of the Seven Co-op Principles on which all co-ops are founded is:
"Open and voluntary membership”
When you become a co-op member, what is your motivation? Is it the promised discount on Member Appreciation Days or is something deeper guiding your decision? Investing in cooperatives has important implications for how we organize ourselves in our community.
It is interesting to review the origins of the modern co-op movement as we know it. The following excerpt is from an article on the history of co-ops which was found on the Web:
“This is a very special to us - this is hallowed ground.” With these words a visitor from the United States summed up the reason why hundreds of international visitors made a pilgrimage to the little store at 31 Toad Lane, Rochdale, U.K. for the 150th anniversary celebrations.
When the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society opened their shop in December 1844, with the aim of selling pure and unadulterated food at fair prices and with honest weights and measures, they pointed the way for like minded men and women to set up similar co-operative societies. And so it was that the consumer co-operative movement effectively became established - not just in Britain but throughout the world.
Certainly it is never claimed that the Rochdale Pioneers were the first. Co-operatives, so historians tell us, were a familiar concept to the farmers of ancient Babylon....... but from the “hallowed ground” of Toad Lane the growth was truly phenomenal. It was as if a great dam had burst in Rochdale on that December night, providing the precious water to irrigate a desert of poverty and deprivation, disenfranchisement and prejudice, and allow green shoots of co-operation to flourish in the most barren soil of post-Industrial Revolution Britain.
Now, at the beginning of a new millenium in this pearl of a City, safely nestled in the comfort of these surrounding hills, this is where you come in. Membership means not just being a part of this Co-op, it means it actually BELONGS to you. If you want to see this store grow and change for the better, you know where the responsibility lies......