What is a Co-op?

Firstly this is an abbreviation for the word co-operative. It is a word often known by many of us from our education at school but in real terms few probably understand a co-op as anything more than being a shop we buy groceries from. The term CO-OP is now a brand for the global community of co-operatives, every type of business from transport, food production and clothing manufacture, to housing projects and small enterprises. Currently about 12% of all workers are part of co-operatives worldwide.

Principally a co-operative is people who have certain similar aims collaborating to make the task at hand easier. Be that building a bridge, a house, a community or a care facility. Co-operating with other like minded people is a way to save time and effort and yield more adequate results with the resources to hand.

It is almost certainly the oldest form of working that civilisation has known. Long before dictatorships, before clan feudalism and empires and even good old fashion capitalism, co-operative working communities made things and created shared living spaces. Ok, so maybe I am romanticising a little here, but don’t you feel the wisdom of working together for a shared outcome being far more beneficial for the wider world than any other type of controlled, solely profit motivated venture?

In recent times, going back to the late 1800’s a few brave people took on the might of their mill masters and local gentry to establish a new (old) way of doing business. And in the process began to educate themselves and their dependants so as to escape the confines of the systemic abuse they experienced from greedy profiteers. The people I speak of were a group of 28 men and women who began what was to become a modern move away from the squalor and desperate hardships to create a mutual co-operative. Affectionately called the ‘Rochdale Pioneers’ they blazed the way to a different way of working and sharing what little they had, and founded the ‘Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers’ in 1844.

The working conditions of the ordinary people during this period in history were dire and even children had to do awful jobs for very long hours. We laugh at the chimney sweep children in films like Mary Poppins, but this was the life of the day for so many. Living in squalid and crowded dwellings being fed with poor quality and polluted foods was also a common theme. Almost as if the rich did not believe other people had the rights to a fair share of the rewards for their labours. Which by the way was the back bone of their ability to reap profits whilst caring little about workers. Being exploited by very wealthy land owners and mill factory owners was commonplace and so the pioneers took on great odds to face down the challenge of setting up in opposition to many of those business people. Thankfully they did, and set a precedent for the rest of the world to follow.

You may sense a tone of disgust in my record of those events from history. I am very sad that almost no regard was given to the health and safety, the working conditions being pushed onto those poor working class people. I pray that if anything good could come from this record, that it would be an obvious conclusion not to repeat this in our modern world. Yet we are still carrying on the exploitation of others to this day, Hence why we are so keen to get this project up and running, to stand with all the other co-operatives worldwide whom adhere to the core Values and Principles that were enshrined in the co-operative movement when the pioneers wrote their Rochdale Principles.

This is now the bench mark for every other co-op since and that which has spread to every part of the globe. These particular values and principles give direction to a better way of working to create benefit to the workers/members rather than simply owners of wealth.

I guess this is why we hope that you see the value of doing things in this co-operative way in our Share-It Community. So that although we are setting this up, initially upon a capital investment and monthly rental basis, we shall potentially all see the need to take the benefits of combined living as well as the shared expense of buying a property and land. One member one vote is in our opinion the best way to guarantee that we act in a fair and equitable way with democracy at the heart of all matters, giving the choice over expense and development directly into the hands of each member. We also welcome any and all comments about how you feel this might work or not work, and your efforts towards a successful outcome. To live in the warm and sunny climates of central Italy, share a home, collaboration and activities, our work rest and play will surely be bountiful.