THE HISTORY OF COOPERATIVES is a long and varied one. Almost as long as people have lived in groups, the idea has been in existence. Ancient and medieval civilizations applied the idea in the form of craft guilds. In the 19th century, the British industrialist, Robert Owen wrote and popularized the philosophy of the modern cooperative, holding that people could always live better and achieve more through cooperation than competition. In 1844, his ideas were put into practice by a group of weavers from Rochdale, England who had become tired of oppressive working conditions and economic hardship. They pooled resources and set up a cooperative store to help each other, selling household goods and distributing the profit among themselves. The principles under which they operated were modified somewhat to apply to all cooperatives, and are still used today as a basis for forming and maintaining cooperatives.
Today, there are cooperatives all over the world: consumer cooperatives, producer cooperatives, student cooperatives, day-care cooperatives, credit unions, and on and on. Three other co-ops are based at Circle Pines: Knollwood and the Detroit Area Cooperative Camping Association (DACCA), which have facilities on the lakefront, and the Co-op Store, a consumer co-op run by and for our summer campers. Many companies that are household names in the U.S. are co-ops, though you might not know it. There are also organizations of cooperatives, and even a National Cooperative Bank. The Other Coops page has links and information about many of them.