The beginnings of the modern cooperative movement can be traced back to the town of Rochdale, England. A band of 28 working people formed the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers. Desperate over low pay and high living cost, the 28 local workers invested their money, time, and energy and opened the first consumer based cooperative.
Their goal was to provide themselves with the basic human needs: food, shelter, goods and services. The fame from the Rochdale Pioneers came not from what they did, but from how they did it. Working together, not one, but all workers benefited. From that small group emerged what has become known as the "Rochdale Principles", a set of practices and procedures that have served as a guidepost for cooperatives around the world.
Cooperatives have come a long way since Rochdale. There are tens of thousands of cooperatives in operation today that provide credit and financial services, telephone and electric service, insurance, housing, child care, health care, food, farming, marketing and supply, and news distribution services. Familiar cooperative enterprises include: Associated Press, Ocean Spray, Nationwide Insurance, Land O' Lakes, Ace Hardware and Sunkist. Seven hundred twenty million people belong to CO-OPs all across the world.
Each year America's cooperatives generate more than $100 billion in economic activity. Cooperatives serve more than 120 million people in cities, towns, and suburbs throughout rural America. Cooperatives embody the best traditions of American self-reliance and independence. CO-OPs are successful because they provide nonprofit services to their communities that may not be readily available otherwise.