Co-op Enterprises: A Model That Works For Everything


A different way to build for the future in today’s economy will be on the table October 15 when the Ottawa Co-op Network hosts a free and open panel discussion at Ottawa City Hall.
The Learning Event, scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. start, will explore a business model that provides an advantageous alternative to the conventional corporate structure. Reflecting “The Co-op Advantage” theme of International Co-op Week (Oct. 12-17), the audience will hear and engage with the proposition that now is the best time ever to build on the co-op advantage.
Denyse Guy will chair the panel. Denyse is Executive Director of Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada, the apex association for the Canadian co-op sector. Panelists include co-op members Reide van Melle of Brierwood Design Co-op, Kelly Storie of La Siembra Co-operative Inc., Céline Carrière of Your Credit Union and the Co-operative Housing Association of Eastern Ontario and Kim Scott of Ottawa Renewable Energy Inc.
More than half of all Canadians are members of one or another credit union or co-operative, the unique and democratic way of organizing a business or social activity. There are about 9,000 co-operatives in Canada, employing about 155,000 people. They are exceptionally stable enterprises. A 2008 Quebec study, subsequently confirmed in Manitoba, found 62 per cent of co-ops still operating after 20 years, compared with 44 per cent from other businesses.
A co-operative is a business owned and controlled by the people who work there, use its services or purchase its products. They all turn a profit although profit is not their primary goal. Many are modern prosumer-type organizations with both worker-producers and client-consumers as members.
Co-operatives exist in every sector of the economy and can grow with the best of them — some of the biggest in Canada include the sixth largest financial institution in the country (Desjardins), the largest enterprise in Saskatchewan (Federated), Co-operators Insurance, Mountain Equipment and Home Hardware, a national dealer-owned retail co-operative. Co-ops are involved in wheat pools and health care, finance and renewable energy, apartments and houses, sporting goods, farming and food stores, internet software, child and day-care, mobile apps, insurance, fair trade coffee, funerals, car sharing. The list is virtually endless.
The Learning Event at Ottawa City Hall October 15, 2015 is free and open to the general public. It is being held in memory of Ottawa co-operator Mark Goldblatt, a nationally recognized co-op leader, visionary, and innovator who left his stamp on almost every co-op sector. Goldblatt died in February 2015. His last project was as volunteer president of the not-for-profit Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa, which opened in 2013.