Radical Routes grew from a small group of independent co-operatives which developed in the 1980s. These housed people, typically those on low incomes, who were interested in buying properties from which they could start other projects. "Taking Control Events" were organised in various parts of the country. These were seminars on how to take control of housing and work by setting up co-operatives.
In 1988 the network took on the name "Radical Routes" and began holding quarterly gatherings. A secondary co-operative, Radical Routes Ltd, was set up in 1992 which made it possible to raise investment centrally through a national investment scheme. In 1998, this idea was taken a stage further with the establishment of Rootstock Ltd.
Previously, Radical Routes raised investment mostly in the form of "loan stock" and long term loans which had to be repaid on agreed dates. This was very successful, raising over £400,000. However, substantial sums of money had to be set aside for repayments, and this limited the money available to lend to co-ops. There were also legal restrictions on how often loan stock could be issued.
Rootstock does not have these limitations. Because investment is in the form of shares, there is no need for a fixed final repayment date. Instead, the shares are normally withdrawable subject to a period of notice. So a higher proportion of the money can be lent out to co-ops. Also, there are currently no restrictions on how often withdrawable shares can be issued, so people can invest when they please. As shareholders, investors are members of Rootstock Ltd and have a say in the running of the organisation. All in all, Rootstock shares provide greater flexibility for investors and greater benefit to co-ops.
The contribution that Radical Routes has made to the development of co-operation in the UK can not be overstated.