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Report from the Executive Director, February 2020

By Hazel Corcoran

CWCF Conference/new logo and website/North American Worker Co-op Summit II/GM Oshawa plant conversion/Investment Readiness Program proposal/ICA World Co-op Congress bid/Edmonton meet-and-greet.

Plans for the CWCF 2020 Conference in Vancouver  (Nov 12-14, at the YWCA Hotel and another venue for the keynote) are proceeding apace.  We are thrilled to have confirmed the keynote: Nathan Schneider, a writer, professor and well-known public advocate for the co-op movement, especially platform co-operatives.  He is a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is a millennial who has already written several books and spoken at many national and international conferences; we cannot wait to hear from Nathan!

Progress also continues on CWCF’s dynamic new logo and new website. They’re a bit behind schedule, in part because the website developer has welcomed a new baby into their family at the start of the year.  Dru has been on parental leave (Congratulations, Dru Oja Jay, and Rebekah Hart!). Now that Dru is back at work, we think it will be completed in short order. The other issue is that it took our board & staff a long time to finalize and agree upon the exciting new visual identity. Visual work is always slow because it’s hard to get consensus, given everyone’s different aesthetic sensibilities. We are excited and can’t wait to unveil CWCF’s energetic new look!  We are still keeping it under wraps for now, but by spring you will see our new look suggesting unity in diversity, the cycle of nature, and more. 

 CWCF will host our second North American Worker Co-op Summit, in conjunction with the Co-ops & Mutuals Canada Congress, le Réseau de la Coopération du travail du Québec local worker co-ops & other partners this year in the Ottawa area  (more precisely Gatineau, Quebec) in mid-June. CMC’s Congress takes place on June 16 – 18. The North American Worker Co-op Summit II will take place on June 15, complete with a co-op-themed band. The dual focus will be worker co-ops learning from / empowering each other, and also worker co-op Business Succession, including CWCF’s federal proposal on this topic and also the exciting Vancouver Worker Co-op Business Succession project, which is currently underway. It includes partnerships with the U of Toronto CoopConvert.ca project, BCCACo-ops First, soon the MITACS graduate internship program, and last but definitely not least, Vancity Credit Union.  

Work continues steadily by Russ Christianson on the push to have GM Oshawa convert in part to an electric vehicle plant, one that’s at least partially worker-owned.  If anyone is aware of potential sources of funding for the next stages, or connections to help us convince either the provincial or federal government to take the necessary step of expropriating a small part of this giant plant, please contact me or Russ, russ.c@xplornet.com.

CWCF submitted a proposal for the maximum amount to the federal Investment Readiness Program, to both grow the Tenacity Works Fund (which is itself an Innovative Social Finance Fund – since the year 2000), and secondly to – finally – offer the very successful worker co-op training program based on the Quebec program, Parcours COOP.  The CWCF pilot of this program will be in Toronto starting in September, to be held at the Centre for Social Innovation.   These two initiatives are going forward whether funded by IRP or not, but it will be easier if this funding is obtained.  

CWCF coordinated a bid made up of worker co-ops in Canada, the Mondragon group in Spain, and others to do the marketing and communications of the ICA 125th anniversary World Co-op Congress in Seoul in December.  CWCF would do only a small part of the work, primarily linking the partners to the international co-op movement and advising them.  The bulk of the work would be done by a firm local to me in Calgary, Parker PR; plus the Mondragon Group’s consulting arm, LKS, and various worker co-ops, including Coopérative Productions 4 élements (video) of Quebec City.  Unfortunately, the Team Canada (+) bid was not chosen, but it was noted that it was among the very strongest proposals.  We wish the ICA all the best at the World Co-operative Congress, and a couple of us hope to make it to the Congress.

Finally, we held a successful worker co-op meet-and-greet event in Edmonton, February 4. The event offered worker co-op members in Edmonton and others with an interest in the movement a chance to meet myself and CWCF board member Yvonne Chiu (MCHB Co-op), meet each other, and share stories.