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The term cooperative comes from the Latin cum (with) and operare (work), so the word can mean “work with” or “with work”.

Since Greek and Roman times, there have been many examples of collective ownership and management of social and business organisation, but one of the first cooperatives, as it is understood today, dates back to 1844, when the Rochdale Pioneers Equitable Society was created in Rochdale, England. Other cooperatives emerged at around the same time in France, Spain and other European countries. Some of the first great thinkers on cooperativism include Robert Owen from Great Britain, Charles Fourier from France and Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen from Germany, who proposed that a solution to social problems could be achieved through cooperation between individuals.

The symbol of the cooperative movement is a pine tree. It was first used in 1922 and it symbolises positive identification of cooperative members and their sense of purpose and common work. The pine tree is an ancient symbol of life, immortality and benefit, and represents continuity, perseverance and solidarity, three of the main pillars of cooperativism.

The cooperative flag consists of the seven colours of the rainbow, symbolising universal peace, unity that transcends political, economic, social, racial and religious differences, and hope for humanity in a better world where freedom, personal dignity, social justice and solidarity prevail. The flag of the cooperative movement was launched by the ICA, the International Cooperative Alliance, which, since 1895, has been responsible for promoting the cooperative movement and cooperative principles on an international level.


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