Session at the Canadian Association for Studies in Co-operation (CASC’s) 2023 Congress: Business Conversions to Social Purpose Organizations for Equity-Denied Groups

Format: In-person 

Date: Wednesday, May 31st, 1:30pm EST

Location: York University Toronto, Ontario

Presenters:  Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido, MBA: Black Women Professional Worker Co-op & Whole Woman Network,  Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard (virtually): CUNY, Dr. Marcelo Vieta: University of Toronto

Moderator: Janielle Maxwell:  JEDDI Business Conversions Project Coordinator CWCF

This session focused on how co-operative economics and business conversions to co-ops (and other Social Purpose Organizations) are intertwined and engrained in the socio-cultural history of Equity-Denied Groups. Juliet ‘Kego discussed how cooperativism has been and continues to be an integral part of African financial frameworks. She also shared her experience in the sector from the perspective of Black Women Professional Worker Co-op and Whole Woman Network (an organization in the process of converting to a non-share co-op). Her insightful stories highlighted several themes including how the integration of Equity-Denied Groups can transform the Social Purpose Organization (SPO) space to be a better steward of Justice, Equity, Decolonization etc. Embracing the importance of storytelling, Janielle shared an example of a past workplace experience that spoke to the need for unlearning unconscious bias, as well as highlighting how the SPO sector has an opportunity to differentiate itself from traditional sectors through centering on JEDDI values. Next, a video presentation by Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard was shared which detailed how co-operative practices in African American societies were an essential part of their economic autonomy and liberation . She elaborated on how co-op groups such as farmer & labour unions were key catalysts in the Civil Rights movement as well as the spark in racial consciousness.

Professor Marcelo Vieta then discussed the spectrum of co-ops across Canada and emphasized  the nuance within the location and type of co-op organizations. He also shared key insights from The Co-op Convert Project.