“If a huge stone is in the way of 20 people, they could not pass if they individually tried to remove it. However, if the 20 people come together and work under the orientation of one of them, jointly they will remove the stone and open the way to everyone.”

Theodor Amstad

Theodor Amstad, a priest, was a firm believer in the principle of the co-operation between human beings. It was the reason he founded the first credit co-operative in Latin America in 1902. Like his story of the stone, Amstad’s decision to begin a cooperative not only brought people together with a common objective but solidarity and tolerance became their means of achieving that objective.

Sicredi Pioneira RS, with its membership of 70,000, is one of the 116 credit co-operatives in the historic and powerful Sicredi organisation which was founded by Amstad in Nova Petrópolis in southern Brazil. The German settlement is seen as the capital of the cooperative movement in Brazil.

While Sicredi Pioneira RS has a famous history, it also has an eye on the future. To that end it is a supporter of Scholar Co-operatives, a program which encourages students to organize themselves into co-operatives. This education in the cooperative mould not only breeds future managers and community leaders in Brazil but also educates community members about Amistad’s old principle of co-operation.

Aptly, a stone monument telling Amstad’s story was erected on the 100 year anniversary of the founding of the nation’s first credit union.

This story is an ICA Yearbook feature. To learn more visit: https://ica.coop/en/iycbook