New publication celebrates the ICA’s history

17 Dec 2021

A new booklet and a dedicated exhibition named “Understanding our history to build a stronger future” have been produced by the ICA to mark its 125th anniversary.

They showcase important milestones from the ICA’s history and were  on display at the World Cooperative Congress in Seoul, the Republic of Korea.

Produced by the ICA under the coordination of the Director of Legislation, Santosh Kumar, and the Director of Communication, Leire Luengo, they look at the first years of the ICA and feature testimonies of around 20 member organisations that were represented during the creation of the ICA in 1895, descriptions of past ICA Congresses, as well as an overview of the evolution of the cooperative principles since 1844.

ICA President Ariel Guarco wrote in the introduction: “It is our Identity, forged in these 125 years, that allows us once again to be resilient and become a beacon that lights the path out of this crisis better than when we entered it. Many of the actions, people and collective movements that have shaped this Cooperative Identity since the beginning of the ICA are found in the pages that follow. Let us cherish this rich history and continue to build together a strong and transformative cooperative movement… for the next hundred years and beyond!”

The booklet also includes an article by historian Rita Rhodes, who describes the evolution of the ICA from 1895 to the present day and thematic contributions by members of the ICA, some of whom were present at the birth of the ICA at the first International Cooperative Congress in London in 1895.

In addition to celebrating the past, the publication also explores what the future might bring. In his article Martin Lowery, Chair of the ICA Cooperative Identity Committee and Honorary Vice President of the National Rural Electrification Cooperative Association (NRECA) of the United States, looks at the relevance of the cooperative identity today.

This publication of historical information has been made possible with thematic contributions by members of the ICA and the archive resources at the Cooperative Heritage Trust, the ICA Domus Trust Library and Cooperative News among others. Archive images, reports and resources complete the project. 

Yena Lee, who translated the text for the ICA History Exhibition in Seoul, said: “The exhibition tells the story of the very first congress and the efforts to hold that congress at the time. It was very inspiring to see how many countries, organisations and people tried to help set up this International Cooperative Alliance. Their efforts at the time were very remarkable. This kind of story should be shared so I would like to introduce this history exhibition to many people.” 

The exhibition was a snapshot of the birth of the global cooperative movement. In the coming months, this initiative plans to evolve in order to include other pieces of the movement’s history. This project resonates with this sentiment captured by William Pascoe Watkins: “Social institutions, such as the International Cooperative Alliance, which lose sight of their past are in danger of losing control of their future.”

The booklet is available here.


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