When you consider that in 1844, only 1 in 7 men had the right to vote, and women were over half a century away form gaining suffrage, the achievements of the Rochdale Pioneers seem all the more remarkable. They managed to set up the first successful co-operative business, in which the company is owned by its customers. This was revolutionary and paved the way for many more co-operative businesses.
In the 21st Century, The Co-operative Group is still going strong, with over six million members and 5000 outlets in the UK, and it is still empowering ordinary people and community groups.
A new advertising campaign begins this week, so you may well see more about The Co-Operative on your screens soon. The campaign features real life groups who have been able to Join the revolution and get help from The Co-operative to achieve their goals.
The photo above shows the Oxford Cycle Workshop, a community-owned initiative which sells recycled bikes and aims to make cycling accessible to everyone in Oxford. It’s a brilliant idea and received help and business advice from The Co-Operative Enterprise Hub. Now they’ve been able to work with schools and the Youth Offending Service, and have held workshops in community centres.
Playing their matches just down the road from me, FC United are a co-operative football club who’ve sold over a million shares at £1 each, and have a membership of 3000 co-operative shareholders. They were set up in response to commercialism in football and have received training and advice from the Enterprise Hub and have some brilliant community initiatives, such as offering sports coaching courses for refugees and care-leavers.
I’m aware of a number of co-operative businesses in the Manchester area, such as a grocery stores and a toy shop. It seems to me a fantastic way of boosting community spirit as well as ensuring people of a good choice of independent local shops run with ethical values. It would be great to see more of it.
Do you have an idea for a co-operative business? Get involved!