The Worker Co-op Sector in Canada: Success Factors, and Planning for Growth


The objective of this paper is to provide an analysis of the current state of the worker co-op movement in Canada with a focus on successful worker co-ops. A deepened review of a 2008 survey was conducted. Worker co-operatives which have failed were analyzed, and a full-day workshop with the CWCF Board of Directors was conducted to assess the factors that would lead to faster growth in the sector. The research project also involved surveying 13 worker co-operatives across Canada to identify common factors of success. The survey results indicated that a large majority of founding members in these successful worker co-operatives did not have business experience. Overriding this was the willingness of members to work together and to continuously learn on the job in a working environment that allows them to express their values and social concerns. Through this, successful worker co-operatives were able to carve a niche in their business sector by providing high quality goods and services. Other factors critical to success were access to capital and creative financing, including members’ significant commitment to sweat equity, and available technical and industry resources to assist with the challenges of business and co-operative organizational development. By better understanding the success factors for individual worker co-operatives, the goal of CWCF is to pave the way for more growth and more success for worker co-operatives across Canada.

Funding for the research and drafting of this paper was generously provided by the Canadian Social Economy Research Partnerships, based at the University of Victoria and supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.