Cooperative roots and history

Cooperative roots and history


What does cooperative mean?

A cooperative is 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. (Definition from: International Cooperative Alliance) 


Cooperatives – then and now

German cooperative history dates to the second half of the 19th century when the first cooperative structures attempted to answer social and societal challenges such as the hunger crisis. The two main characters in this movement were:



Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen (left) founded the first rural savings and credit cooperative as well as an agricultural cooperative.

Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch (right) established the first urban cooperative in 1849 - a shoemaker cooperative.


What are our ties to the cooperative world about?


Founding of ADG – by the cooperative financial sector in 1978 with the intention of creating a training institute focused specifically on the needs of their middle-sized cooperative clients.


Cooperative spirit – at ADG members and owners of the academy are also the main clients: primary cooperative banks, specialized cooperative institutions and their (con-)federations. By today, we are partner to about 800 cooperative banks as well as 4.000 agricultural and commercial cooperatives.



Cooperative environment – Seminars at Montabaur castle bring together leaders and specialists from the cooperative world – and foster the exchange amongst them. Additionally, all trainings, seminars, etc. have a “cooperative baseline” which means that they are adapted to convey content considering peculiarities of cooperative relevance.


In the decades that followed, the cooperative idea spread throughout Germany, Europe and worldwide. Amongst others, the middle and eastern European countries took the German cooperative law as a model, originally designed by Schulze-Delitzsch in 1889.

Nowadays, cooperatives constitute an important part of the SME sector and are a vitalising factor for the economy in numerous business fields. Amongst others, they play a crucial role in Germany's energy transition and increase of renewable energies. In total, the cooperative network is one of the largest economic organisations in Germany with over 19 million members in more than 5.000 cooperatives.

They are classified as:

  • cooperative banks,
  • rural cooperatives,
  • commercial cooperatives,
  • consumer and service cooperatives,
  • housing cooperatives

The cooperative idea is proposed to become Intangible Cultural World Heritage by the German Raiffeisen- and Schulze Delitzsch-foundations. Furthermore, many consider Germany – and specifically the Montabaur region – to be the cradle of the cooperative idea.