Ever wonder why Weavers Way is called Weavers Way? The name pays homage to a collective of 28 weavers and other artisans in England who, in 1844, joined together to cooperatively purchase food they could not otherwise afford. The Rochdale Pioneers weren’t the first group to try forming a co-op, but they were the first to make their co-op succeed and endure. To avoid the mistakes made by earlier co-op societies and to help others, they developed a list of operating principles governing their organization. This list formed the basis for what are now known as the cooperative principles. Rochdale is considered the birthplace of the modern cooperative movement.
The Rochdale Principles are based on values not unlike those we subscribe to individually, including self-responsibility, democracy, equality, honesty and social responsibility.
Co-ops worldwide still adhere to the spirit of the Rochdale Principles. Those principles are outlined by the International Cooperative Alliance. They are
1. Voluntary and Open Membership - Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, 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.
2. Democratic Member Control - Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. The elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.
3. Decision Making - Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4. Autonomy and Independence - Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into 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 cooperative autonomy.
5. Special Practices (the ways co-ops put their beliefs into action) - Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public — particularly young people and opinion leaders — about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives - Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
7. Concern for Community - Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.