In 1921, there were more co-ops than ever before. At the International Co-operative Congress of World Co-op Leaders in Basel, Switzerland, co-op leaders wanted to identify and define the growing co-operative movement’s common values and ideals to help unite co-ops around the world. They decided to hold a special event, and to develop an international co-op symbol to celebrate the movement’s growing diversity.
In Essen, Germany in 1922, ICA leaders made plans for the very first international “Co-operators’ Day” which was held in July 1923. Since then, on the first Saturday every July, International Co-operative Day has been celebrated. The day is a chance for co-op members and supporters to work together and promote the co-op movement’s successes and ideals of international solidarity, economic efficiency, equality, and world peace.
Co-op leaders also wanted to design an international co-op symbol and a flag for the first “Co-operators’ Day.” It was hard to settle on an image that would please everybody. Artists all over the world submitted ideas and designs. Eventually, a famous French co-operator, Professor Charles Gide, suggested using the seven colours of the rainbow for the flag. He pointed out that the rainbow symbolized unity in diversity and the power of light, enlightenment and progress.
Everybody in the world can recognize a rainbow and grasp its many meanings. Rainbow refers to the image in the sky after a rain storm, in every country and continent. In cultures around the world, there are stories and legends about the rainbow as a path or gate to a better world or a reward. And, from a scientific viewpoint, the rainbow is in fact a single, indivisible entity.
All these meanings make the rainbow a perfect emblem for the co-op movement. After some experiments with different designs and kinds of cloth, the first rainbow flag was completed in 1924. Everyone loved it, and it was adopted as an official symbol of the international co-operative movement in 1925.
|RED represents the courage to stand together.|
|ORANGE represents hope for the future.|
|YELLOW represents warmth, friendship and concern for others.|
|GREEN represents growth in co-operatives and individually, as we learn more about ourselves and others|
|SKY BLUE represents unlimited horizons and possibilities.|
|DARK BLUE represents hard work and perseverance.|
|VIOLET represents respect for others.|