From Toad Lane to the World
Our Co-operative Pioneers
The common bond of ideals and principles of modern cooperation is traced back to 1844 when a group of 28 weavers (27 men and one woman) pooled their savings and opened the first successful consumer co-op on Toad Lane in Rochdale, England. These early co-opers saw themselves on a largely social mission, to provide for themselves affordable goods and services, which the burgeoning Industrial Revolution was keeping out of their reach in the service of personal profit.
The Rochdale Pioneers wanted to create a utopian society and they began with a food store (with plans, that never materialized, to create a self-sustaining community that would include a temperance society and a reading room). They did create one thing of importance to the cooperative movement—the one member, one vote principle, which would provide “a sound way to sell at market prices, return the net earnings to consumers, develop capital out of operations and keep control in the hands of those who made their purchases through the cooperative” (Consumer Cooperation: The Heritage and the Dream 18).
“Today, cooperators around the world have made a shrine of that first store on Toad Lane—collective heroes, and one heroine, of the ’28 weavers of Rochdale.’ Their societies follow the ‘Rochdale Principles’ first worked out in that consumer co-op” (Consumer Cooperation 19).
The Rochdale Principles
In bringing their social vision to life, the Rochdale Pioneers developed specific guidelines for the operation of their co-op. Today we call these guidelines the cooperative principles or Rochdale Principles. Though updated and modified, the principles bear the same social vision of these co-op pioneers. This vision has been shared by the thousands of cooperatives around the world that have adopted them.