Throughout history, groups of individuals have worked together in the pursuit of common goals and collective actions of one form or the other, whether formally or informally. Thus, the historical development of co- operatives can be traced back to our predecessors who recognized the advantages of hunting, gathering and living in groups rather than existing on their own. in this regard, co-operative businesses cannot be disconnected from the social and economic forces that shaped them, since they were traditionally formed during times of economic stress and social upheaval.
Although the word co-operative can be applied to many different types of group activities, for the purpose of this submission, I am restricting it to a formal business model.
Ivan Emeliano (1942), a respected co-operative scholar, remarked that “the diversity of co-operatives is kaleidoscopic and their variability is literally in nite”. As a result of this diversity, there exists no universally accepted definition of a co-operative. Notwithstanding the aforementioned, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) defines a co-operative as ‘an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their
common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise’. Additionally, in 1987, the united States Department of Agriculture further de ned a co- operative as ‘a user-owned, user-controlled business that distributes benefits on the basis of use’. regardless of the variations and sources of definitions, the fundamental principles of cooperatives are enshrined in each definition and remain the same people who organize and belong to co-operatives do so for a variety of economic, social and political reasons. Co-operating with others has often proven to be a satisfactory way of achieving one’s own objectives, while at the same time assisting others in achieving theirs.
It must be noted that co-operatives around the world operate according to the same seven core principles and values adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995. And it is those same principles that have propelled co-operatives to unprecedented heights and successes; without these principles, the results would be markedly different.