Humans are innately cooperative beings. Throughout our evolution we have cultivated many ways to embed cooperative values in our communities and social structures. These ways include traditional ceremonies, social norms, religious and spiritual imperatives, and the business model we commonly refer to as a “co-op”.

Social cooperation is something deeper than any formal organisation. It is fostered by culture and internalised over time, manifesting as a personal experience like shame or joy.

In a capital driven society, many of the cooperative social values that are so intrinsic to humanity are obscured and forgotten. The co-op model was a response to the dehumanizing elements of industrial capitalism, and an attempt to embed certain social values within the competitive economy.

The blueprint for the model we use today is derived from a consumer co-op founded by a group of weavers in 1844 Rochdale, England to secure unadulterated, quality food and other supplies during a period of rapid urbanisation that cut people off from farms and transformed modern life.

In some places the co-op model was adopted as a powerful tool against discrimination by communities who were already accustomed to using their collective power to overcome extreme oppression and deprivation. Wedge Community Foods in Minneapolis is an example of people working together in the face of racism and active sabotage to improve each other’s lives in tangible ways.

To learn more about the Rochdale Pioneers,

Check out this video commissioned for the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and Co-operative Heritage Trust:

Still Curious?

Check out this article by Ed Mayo, “A Short History of Co-operation and Mutuality”
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