THE BIRTH OF A GREAT IDEA
The Industrial Revolution started in England in the 18th century. Manual labor lost a big part of its power and value. Low wages and long working hours brought many socioeconomic difficulties for the population. With this crisis surged leardership among the working class, which created aid oriented associations. This experience did not produce positive results.
Based on past experiences they sought new ways and found that, with the formal organization called cooperative it was possible to overcome difficulties, so long as the values of human beings were respected and rules, standards and principles were practiced.
Then, 28 workers, mostly weavers, met to evaluate their ideas. They respected their customs, traditions and established standards and goals for the organization of a cooperative. After a year of work they accumulated a capital of 28 pounds and managed to open a small cooperative store, on 12.21.1844, in Rochdale, Manchester neighborhood (England).
The Society of Probos of Rochdale known as the first modern cooperative in the world was born. It created the moral principles and behavior that are considered , even today , the basis of true cooperativism. In 1848 , there were already 140 members and , twelve years later reached 3,450 members with a capital of 152 thousand pounds.
A cooperative is a movement, a philosophy of life and a socio-economic model capable of combining economic development and social welfare. Its fundamental references are: democratic participation, solidarity , independence and autonomy.
It is a system based on uniting the people and not based in monetary value. It looks towards the needs of the group and not towards profit. It aims at joint prosperity rather than individual profit. These differences make the Cooperative a socioeconomic alternative that leads to success with balance and justice among the participants.
Associated with universal values , the Cooperative develops itself regardless of territory , language, creed or nationality.
PRINCIPLES OF COOPERATIVISM
In a congress held in celebration of the centennial birth of the International Cooperative Alliance, in September 1995, lawmakers representing cooperatives worldwide , substantiated the basic principles of cooperativism, as:
I. Voluntary and Open Membership – Cooperatives are voluntary organizations , open to all persons able to use their services and assume the responsibilities of membership , without gender , social, racial , political and religious discrimination.
II. Democratic and free management – Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives of the other members, are accountable before them. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote); in the higher degree cooperatives, the organization is also democratic.
III. Economic participation of members – Members contribute equitably to form the capital of their cooperative and democratically control it. Part of this capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive, if any, limited compensation on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or more of the following purposes: developing their cooperative; possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least will be indivisible; benefit to members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; supporting other activities approved by the members.
IV. Autonomy and Independence – Cooperatives are autonomous and self supporting organizations, controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations – including governments – or resort to external capital, they should do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and to maintain the autonomy of the society.
V. Education, Training and Information – Cooperatives provide education and training to their members, elected representatives and employees, so that they can contribute effectively to the development of the group. They inform the general public, particularly young people and opinion leaders, about the nature and benefits of cooperation. SAW. Intercooperation – Cooperatives serve more effectively to its members and give more strength to the cooperative movement by working together through local, regional, national and international structures.
VII. Concern for Community – Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.