Canada Celebrates Co-op Week

Canada Celebrates Co-op Week

Annual event precedes International Year of Co-operative 2012

With the highest per capita credit union membership in the world, and a sector representing $330 billion in assets owned by members and the communities they serve, Canada’s co-operative industry has much to celebrate during its annual Co-op Week.

Oct. 16-22 marks Canada’s Co-op Week, a time to recognize an organizational model that started with Canadian dairy farmers in the late 1800s.

Hosted by the Canadian Co-operative Association and its members, this year’s theme is Co-operative Enterprises Build a Better World, the same theme that will be used to celebrate International Year of Co-operatives (IYC), which kicks off January 2012.

Historically and in the present co-ops are building a better world, says John Restakis, executive director of the British Columbia Co-operative Association.

John points to affordable housing co-ops and credit unions like Vancouver’s own Vancity.

“If you look at an organization like Vancity and consider the kinds of programs and services that it offers compared to a conventional bank, that’s because it’s a co-op. . . . It plays a very active role in promoting community economic development and social enterprise,” says John. He notes a new B.C. study shows co-ops also have a much higher survival rate than traditional businesses.

“People have always used co-ops as a way of providing access to services that either weren’t affordable or weren’t available.”

In B.C. there are 700 co-ops that employ 13,000 people and contribute $10 billion annually.

The B.C. Co-op Association will be celebrating the week with a luncheon featuring Al Etmanski Friday Oct. 21. The social entrepreneur who was most recently named one of Canada’s Top 45 over 45 by Zoomer Magazine will be speaking about the Caring Society, of which co-ops — often built to provide care and services to people in the community — belong to.

Both Al and John also sit on the B.C. Advisory Council on Social Entrepreneurship and will be sharing how co-operatives belong to a business sector leading the way by incorporating commercial and social objectives.

In Ontario, the week will focus on internal education and awareness in advance of IYC 2012, says Mark Ventry, co-op community manager of the Ontario Co-operative (On Co-op) Association.

On Co-op will host its annual Co-op Conference Gala that offers training, education and networking for its stakeholders, this year featuring Dame Pauline Green, president of the International Co-operative Alliance.

According to Mark, the message of how co-ops benefit members and the community must be strong among members in order to galvanize greater awareness in the Canadian public, which is the objective of the international year.

It’s this opportunity to highlight co-operatives on the world stage that’s driving the Ontario co-op movement, he adds.

“It’s all about 2012,” says Mark. “The energy, the excitement, the passion that is happening because of this is just incredible, what a gift the United Nations (has) given us.”

To learn more about Canada’s Co-op Week and events, click here.

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Writer Bio

Camille Jensen's picture
Camille Jensen

Camille Jensen is an employee share ownership consultant with ESOP Builders, Canada’s largest provider of employee share ownership plans (ESOPs) for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Prior to joining ESOP Builders, Camille was a generative journalist and team member at Axiom News. She credits her time at Axiom as fundamental to her understanding that business is one of the best opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Camille is a B.C. Partner for Social Impact and volunteer with Okanagan Changemakers.

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