Local Finance Gaining Traction in Alberta

Local Finance Gaining Traction in Alberta

Six Opportunity Development Co-ops formed, six more in the works

More people are investing locally in Alberta, thanks to a partnership of organizations providing leadership through an Unleashing Local Capital project.

Since spring of 2012, six Alberta communities have established co-operatives that pool and manage local capital for investment in local businesses. Another six are exploring the creation of the same type of co-operative, an Opportunity Development Co-operative (ODC), within the year.

Paul Cabaj is director of co-operative development with the Alberta Community and Co-operative Association (ACCA), which spearheads the Unleashing Local Capital project.

“What energizes me is seeing people when they get that realization, that a-ha, that, ‘we don’t have to wait for outside resources, the cavalry ain’t coming, but we can do it ourselves; we have to do it ourselves and to actually do it ourselves is better’,” Paul says.

Each year Albertans put more than $4 billion of their savings in RRSPs, according to research by the ACCA. Billions more are put in non-registered funds, such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds, the ACCA reports. “Most of that money is invested outside their communities, typically to finance large corporations which create jobs and wealth outside their community, and maybe even outside their country,” the report states

But the hard work taking place to enable more local finance is starting to change that data, Paul notes.

“RRSPs leaving this time of year, going to New York or Shanghai, is, in some communities, slowing down,” he says.

“Capital raised locally is now actually being directed to local investment.”

But there is room for much more local investment to be done, Paul says.

“A lot of this is around reviving those muscles, those local investment muscles and getting them going again, going back to what we sometimes call barn raising in the 21st century.

“(It’s about) refining our roots locally.”

Pooling local finance for local investment presents a way for a community to define what it really wants and take action towards that, Paul says.

“The returns are far higher than the financial returns that they’re getting — and they’re making good financial returns — but what they’re getting back is far more than the financial.

“Nothing builds a community like people working together, working through struggle and coming together and actually putting your money down on a project that means something for your community.

The Unleashing Local Capital project is made possible through support from Rural Alberta Development Fund as well as project partners: Athabasca University; Le Conseil de développement économique de l’Alberta; Alberta Rural Development Network; Alberta Family Business Institute and Community Futures Network of Alberta .

Paul will be facilitating a March 12 workshop for those interested in digging deeper into ODCs and gaining enough information, ideas and strategies to identify whether setting up an ODC is a course of action to be taken for their communities.

“It helps groups who are taking a serious look at this to sit down and go through some of the materials we have — templates, guides, videos, instructional pieces — which support communities in getting through this process.

“They can analyze, ‘Do we have what it takes to go to the next step, do we have the right leadership group; what are some of the ideas; what would be a rough work plan that we could use to establish whether we should pursue this further in our community’.”

More to come on elements integral to success in establishing ODCs, the big picture on these in Canada and hopes and plans for the next year of Unleashing Local Capital.

Click here to learn more about the March 12 workshop.

You can comment on this story below, or e-mail michelle(at)axiomnews.ca.

A version of this article was originally written for the Alberta Community and Co-operative Association (ACCA) news service. This repost, for which we received permission, follows the style guidelines of the original post. To learn more about generative newsroom options for your organization or community, please contact peter(at)axiomnews.ca.

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