Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Alphonse Desjardins (co-operator)
In 1897 he became preoccupied with the problem of usury and undertook three years of careful research and correspondence with the founders of cooperative savings and credit movements in Europe. On December 6, 1900 he and his wife Dorimène Roy Desjardins co-founded the first Caisse d'épargne Desjardins in Lévis and opened for business the following month. Later renamed Caisses populaires Desjardins (and today Mouvement Desjardins), they were a forerunner of North American credit unions. "Subsequently, he initiated the creation of more than 140 caisses populaires over 20 years, in addition to having collaborated in the opening of many caisses and the emergence of other co-operative movements in Ontario and the United States.
"Alphonse Desjardins's work, in just a few decades, completely transformed the socio-economic face of Québec," said Mr. Alban D'Amours, President and Chief Executive Officer of Desjardins Group. "The vision of this exceptional humanist left a strong imprint on our history and the evolution of Desjardins Group. The values and principles that were the bedrock of its foundation continue to guide the Desjardins Group even today in its development, here and elsewhere in the world. He has left a lasting legacy." The photo opposite is of Alphonse Desjardins' home. The first savings and credit co-operative in North America started here. It is now a centre dedicated to his memory and has been visited by over 178,000 people from 115 countries since it opened in 1982.
Learning from Other Co-operators
Alphonse Desjardins drew his inspiration from Europe. Caisse populaire is a unique synthesis of four popular savings and credit systems established in Germany, Italy and France: the caisse d'épargne, the Schulze-Delitzsch bank, the Raiffeisen credit co-operative and the Luzzatti popular bank. He also took account of the experience of North American mutual associations and savings banks to define this new type of institution and successfully adapt it to the Canadian context. Desjardins stayed in close contact with many of the founders of the European co-operative movement throughout his life. Having received advice from various international experts, he went on to share his knowledge by organizing the founding of caisses populaires in English-speaking Canada and the United States and by guiding the first sponsors of the American credit union movement. It was also clear to him that the "caisse populaire" concept could be reproduced internationally.
- Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
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