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How Co-ops Are Responding to Climate Change

As with all businesses, the climate crisis presents a challenge for worker co-ops, and at this point there may be as many questions as there are answers. But here’s a start at understanding some of the issues they face. How are co-ops uniquely positioned to respond to climate change? Co-ops’ unique ability to respond to climate change lies in their seven principles. Colin MacDougall of SSG, a co-op that works with cities, campuses, and institutions on climate planning, believes that coops are inherently prone to concern about climate change because of their concern for community, one of the seven principles. “When you allow democracy to sort of, you know flourish and lead decisions within the organization you’ll find that the type of problems that the organization looks to tackle will broaden a lot more and start to consider a lot more social considerations more than financial considerations,” he says.  This…

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Co-ops Benefit from Technical Assistance Grants

Two co-ops that were recently awarded grants through CWCF’s Technical Assistance program greatly appreciated the help they received and would recommend the program to others. West Arm Woodworking, a fledgling co-op in Nelson, BC, sought the grant for assistance in drafting liability waivers for use of its workshop. The co-op worked with Vancouver lawyer Mary Childs to create the waivers, which worker-owner Danielle Soucie says was a crucial part of their operations. “It was definitely necessary and we’re super thankful for the grant that we received from CWCF in order to hire her,” says Soucie. Toronto’s Urbane Cyclist also benefited from a grant which helped it deal with issues arising from its recent restructuring. Urbane’s Owen Ardal says the chance to work with longtime co-op developer Russ Christianson was a great opportunity. “It was very helpful and insightful to have him there, and even just talking in more loose forms…

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New Worker Co-op Benefits from Technical Assistance Grant

When Daimen Hardie (pictured) and his coworkers at Community Forests International set out to build a multi-stakeholder co-op to combat climate change in Atlantic Canada, they knew they would need some help. What they didn’t yet know was that a source for such help was readily available — the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation’s Technical Assistance (TA) program. Through small grants, the program matches CWCF members with co-op developers who can assist them with any issues they might be facing.  “It was really like an organic thing where we knew we wanted to build a worker co-op and we were out hunting for mentors, and this program was brought to our attention as a way to help compensate a potential coach or technical expert,” says Hardie. Enter veteran co-op developer Russ Christianson, who brought his extensive experience to Hardie and the other cofounders of Ecosystem Collective Cooperative in a variety of…

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News from Our Members – May 2019

The Fairware Changemaker series, which highlights entrepreneurs and thought leaders, recently featured Chris Nichols, Operations Coordinator and Co-Founder of Wood Shop Workers Co-operative in Vancouver. The episode shows how Wood Shop creates custom furniture, millwork & metalwork using reclaimed and upcycled materials, while running a co-operative that provides meaningful employment in the Vancouver community.   Nova Scotia co-op Just Us Coffee was also in the news recently for an initiative it took to reduce its carbon footprint in the shipping of its coffee beans (pictured above). The beans travelled to Halifax from Mexico via a German schooner, instead of the normal process of transport by shipping container. And the latest in our member profile series, this one focusing on La Siembra, is available here. La Siembra is celebrating 20 years of providing fair trade sugar, cocoa, chocolate bars, and other products under the Camino brand.

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News from the US Worker Co-op Sector

Carpenter Todd Hindmarsh, of Oakland, with the Arizmendi Bakery cooperative’s new construction business, works at a construction site in Berkeley, Calif., on Wednesday, May 23, 2019. The cooperative bakery, with locations in San Francisco, the East Bay and San Rafael, decided to take the red hot housing market head on by launching a new cooperative construction business. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group) Truthout’s Brian Van Slyke explores how business successions are a key source of the recent increase in American worker co-ops. In another Truthout piece, Robert R. Raymond, explores how “the American Dream” of immigrants is making a comeback thanks to worker co-ops. And Erin Baldassari of the Mercury News explores how Arizmendi, a California association of worker cooperatives best known for its bakeries, is addressing the state’s affordable housing crisis.

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News From Our Members

Local Investing YYC, an associate member of CWCF, focuses on providing capital to growth-oriented Calgary entrepreneurs and small businesses that generate financial, social and environmental returns. This means that Albertans can invest in selected local businesses through Local Investing YYC and see the impact of that investment right before their own eyes in their own community, as opposed to investing in portfolios traded on Wall Street and Bay Street. You can also read the latest in our member profile series, an entry focusing on London Brewing.

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CWCF’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan

PDF version Vision To be a growing, cohesive network of democratically controlled worker co-ops that provide a high quality of worklife, and support the development of healthy, just and sustainable local economies, based on co-operative values and principles. Mission To work in solidarity with our members to achieve our Vision of a Co-operative Economy; To support the development of new worker co-ops; To strengthen the Federation, to animate the worker co-operative movement; and To represent and promote the Canadian worker co-op movement in Canada and internationally. Strategic Priorities   Engage and strengthen current members (Worker Co-ops &Regional Federations) Build Solidarity Economy[i] Build Awareness and Scale-up Worker Co-operatives Goals Grow and strengthen worker co-operatives Develop and strengthen the worker co-operative eco-system Increase the capacity and resources available to CWCF Key Activities Engage worker co-op members in a variety of ways; in-person,social media, Loomio, and conferences Improve the Technical Assistance Program including…

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Bringing Our Strategic Plan to Life

Since its founding in 1991, CWCF has had a vision of growing and strengthening the Canadian Worker Co-op movement, and in recent years, we’ve decided to take it to the next level. At the 2017 CWCF conference, members asked the Board and staff for a bold strategic plan, one that went beyond the status quo. As a result, a team led by Russ Christianson of Rhythm Communications conducted extensive consultations with CWCF’s members and others on their vision for the future of Canada’s worker co-op movement. In the consultation process, one participant came up with the idea of a bicycle as a metaphor for the movement – a bicycle on a sunny day, propelled by a tailwind. It’s an apt metaphor for our state of affairs, for we believe the future of the worker co-op movement in Canada is bright, provided we can harness our members’ energy behind it. CWCF’s…

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Farewell to Neechi Commons

by Kaye Grant, Kenzie Love and Hazel Corcoran After spending much of the past year hoping for a solution to Neechi Commons’ challenges, it was forced to close on June 30th.  Neechi Food Co-op members rallied and identified many different options to turn their operation around but, sadly, were not successful in doing this.  They are currently focusing on finding partners to redevelop the complex. (To learn more about the help Neechi is seeking, see this link.) Winnipeg is home to Canada’s largest urban aboriginal population: nearly 80,000 people, more than 10 percent of Winnipeg’s population. The community economic development (CED) community recognized Neechi’s many contributions to this population over its nearly 30 years of existence.  What began as a small dream in January 1990 became a growing social enterprise for the North End, based on the principle that economic healing is needed to sustain personal and social healing for…

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Be Part of Creating a Strategy to Grow Canada’s Worker Co-op Movement

by Russ Christianson Over the next few months, Dominique Bernier, Cathy Lang and I will be working with CWCF board members and staff, members of worker co-operatives and co-op developers to co-create a strategy for scaling Canada’s worker co-op movement. In addition to CWCF insiders, we will engage key opinion leaders inside and outside of the broader co-op movement, including social entrepreneurs, unions, community development organizations, anti-poverty organizations, economic activists, Chambers of Commerce, Community Futures Development Organizations, and Municipal EDOs. We’re excited to be using Loomio – a worker co-operative Internet platform– that encourages dialogue, document sharing and decision-making. Loomio is designed to be user-friendly and to engage people with the use of decision-making tools such as Check and Dot Voting polls. The software also provides multi-language support and includes a comment translation. The combination of discussion and decision-making is Loomio’s unique advantage. Over the course of the strategic planning…

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