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On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the International Cooperative Alliance: the history of establishing

On August 19, the world cooperative movement celebrated 125 years since the establishment of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA). Organisation was established in 1895, during the 1st Cooperative Congress in London. The participants included representatives from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, England, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, India, Italy, Switzerland, Serbia, and the USA. It was one of the only international organisations to survive both World War I and World War II.

Overcoming all the political differences between its members was difficult, but the ICA survived by staying committed to peace, democracy, and by remaining politically neutral.

In addition, over the past 125 years, the organization has grown in scale and helped unite and strengthen the cooperative movement around the world. We bring to your attention the main milestones of its glorious history and remind you how it all happened.

There are many records of cooperatives that began their activities in the mid-nineteenth century, as small organizations in Western Europe, North America, and Japan. However, it was Rochdale’s Pioneers who are regarded as the prototype of modern cooperative society and founders of the cooperative movement.

In 1844 a group of 28 artisans working in the cotton mills in the town of Rochdale, in the north of England established «Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society». The weavers faced miserable working conditions and low wages, they could not afford quality food and household goods because of the high prices.  They decided that by pooling their scarce resources and working together they could access basic goods at a lower price.   Initially, there were only flour, oatmeal, sugar, and butter for sale.

Members of Society were unanimous that shoppers should be treated with honesty, openness, and respect. So every customer of the shop could became a member.

In 1862 Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen and Hermann Schultz-Delitsch initiated the creation of credit unions in Germany.  This model has grown into other sectors and inspired the growth of financial cooperatives across the world.

Esteblishing of the ICA 125 years ago and the reliability of this cooperative model, which has persisted for such a long period, is a clear example of the importance of its contribution to the world. With the development of socio-economic needs of the population and its desire to build a better world, new forms and types of cooperatives appear and will appear.

The ICA is now represents 313 member organisations from 110 countries—more than at any time in these 125 years.

In the photo: Thirteen founders of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society