The Co-Operative Revolution

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!

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7 Responses to The Co-Operative Revolution

  1. I have been shopping in the co-op lots more recently, partly because its just the right size to take kids round and because I like the idea I am giving to something a little more ethical than most supermarkets. Although I was just thinking as I walked round i wasn’t sure what that really meant – nice to get some, very readable, background.

  2. Very interesting! I went to a session at Islington Mill yesterday on creative coops, and Phil Frampton of FC United was there. Another connection – my friend Dan works for the Oxford Cycling Coop. He’s the one wearing red in the photo.

  3. Jane Heywood says:

    What has the old Co-operative Movement got to do with Parklover? I am from Rochdale and when I went back to see the old Toad Lane and the museum shop, it was all that was left of Toad Lane other than a couple of other main old buildings. I was appalled. I am also apalled at th latest ‘ad’ for the co-op as it does not even mention it’s origin -Rochdale! perhaps a view of half a building amongst a bleak red brick modern background is hardly worthy of the cost of the ad! I am patriotic about the origins of the old co-op so this revolution does not stir me! Why? I shop in the co-op all the time and it is better than ever so really the ad should be showing off it’s origin and not it’s actual achievements as it has only just come up alongside the likes of Tesco/Asda etc., in the good food stakes.

    • Parklover says:

      It’s local to me Jane, and many of the groups helped by The Co-op (like the ones featured) are linked to exercise, environment, community – all things I like to write about here.
      It’s a shame if the adverts don’t mention Rochdale itself (I haven’t seen one yet). I think a lot of younger people don’t know about the origins of the movement.

    • RT says:

      I don’t think the point here lies in getting angry at an advert commissioned by Co-op themselves, nor does the point lie in making comparisons between them and Tesco/Asda. Co-op are a wholly different organisation; the point of the advert was not to profess cheaper prices or say how much better they were than the leading competitor. The point of the advert was in fact to say how involved in the community Co-op are. And that they are! Vive Co-op!

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