Co-op Helps Communities to Flourish

By Kenzie Love

Flourish Community Development Co-operative comes by its name for a reason. It seeks to create caring, just, sustainable and resilient communities. Communities that will, as its name suggests, “flourish”.

The Co-op was founded in 2019, arising from an earlier event called Linking Arms which had brought together progressive consultancies from Nova Scotia and elsewhere in Canada, and which spurred a desire for greater collaboration between some of the attendees. Four consultancies from different areas of the province came together to create the Co-op that was initially known as Leading Edge.

“The idea was that they wanted to take on projects that were bigger than the independent consultancies that they each maintained,” says Co-op member Leslie Brown, who joined Flourish in 2020.

“So they continued as consultancies,” she adds. “But the idea was that they can work with other people around larger projects, projects where maybe they didn’t have all the expertise needed but other people in the group would have that expertise and so on.”

Choosing to create a Co-op, Brown says, was a deliberate move on the founders’ part. They were attracted to the model by its collaborative, non-hierarchical structure.

 “The co-op principles, the co-op values aligned very well with their interests and their commitments,” she says.

The Co-op’s members, as individual consultancies and within Flourish, have focused on strategic and operational planning, research and evaluation, and business, co-operative and organizational development, social enterprise, and succession. Recent projects include supporting clients as they developed a Halifax Food Hub, and working with clients who are exploring transition to collective ownership (e.g. co-operative, nonprofit, municipal, or Indigenous ownership) as increasing numbers of business owners exit their rural businesses.

The desire to help communities achieve transformative change has been a constant in all the Co-op’s work, and was a motivating factor behind the change to its name to Flourish. 

“Leading Edge is more of a marketing, business kind of orientation, which has a purpose,” says Brown. “But after some time together, there was an urge to make it embody more of the commitments that we have, of course to be a strong business, but to focus on this idea of building, contributing to communities of all sorts.”

Brown has found the chance to work with Flourish’s other members a rewarding experience. The sense of trust and the ability to talk through any issues that arise, she notes, isn’t something that happens with every organization. And the Co-op’s meetings illustrate the value of its members collaborating rather than working in isolation.  

“Flourish is the co-op that loves meetings,” says Brown, “because it’s amazing how people find the meetings to be nourishing, a time where you obviously do Flourish business along the way, but it’s also a time out from your everyday life when you have people to share with. And consultancies are often these small, independent consultancies, you’re often more on your own. And so coming together and being part of a group that shares similar aspirations and commitments is incredibly important.”

Juggling both the work Flourish does as a whole and the independent consultancy work, Brown acknowledges, can be a challenge at times. But it’s a challenge the Co-op’s members are happy to accept to ensure that the organization itself, as well as the communities it serves, can thrive.

“Everybody has challenges,” she says. “But in spite of the challenges are we still having fun? And that’s one of the things that we talk about. Do we leave our discussions with one another, however they’re done, with more energy than when we arrived? And most of the time, we can say yes.”