The Cooperative Solution

As late as the 1930s, nine out of ten rural homes did not have access to electricity. Then something amazing happened – a group of neighbors and friends set out to form a cooperative solution.  At about the same time folks in 1,000 other rural communities throughout the United States were doing the same thing, creating rural electric cooperatives.  Interestingly, folks in urban areas were also forming co-ops not electric or farm co-ops but credit unions and housing co-ops. 

Cooperatives in all forms get started when the “market” fails to offer a good or service or does so at such a high price few people can afford it. So back in the time of the great depression when banks did not have much interest in extending credit to people of modest means, people decided to take on the problem themselves. They got together with their friends and neighbors collected the $5.00 membership (and remember in the 1930’s five bucks was real money) and formed over 23,000 credit unions.  They solved their problem with a cooperative solution.  Today, mostly due to mergers between credit unions there are about 6,800 credit unions with more than 100 million members and more than a trillion dollars in assets.

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