Canada's 150 - Canada's Emerging Co-operators Campaign
In the Spirit of Canada's 150th, tell us your co-op story in 150 words!
Matt Thompson, Communications Manager, The Canadian CED Network
My first real introduction to co-operatives was in 2007/2008 through an internship program managed by the Ontario Co-operative Association where I was placed with the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet). To me co-ops are part of the original ‘sharing economy’. Through co-ops workers can share ownership, producers can share the means of production, and consumers can share the risk and responsibility of supply chain management. Democracy is a fundamental Canadian value and yet we don’t hardly apply our democratic principles to our economy. Co-ops are a shining example of what our economy could look like if we did. While CCEDNet is not a co-op many of our members are and many of our values align with the 7 co-op principles. What is innovative about CCEDNet is that we are actively connecting co-ops with others that are creating economic alternatives rooted in local knowledge and led by community members. Our national conference, EconoUs2017, is an excellent forum for achieving this.
I discovered co-ops when the Ontario Co-operative Association hired me, saving me from a string of unpaid internships and seven-day work weeks. Their dedication to ethical business was clear to me from the beginning, not just from their co-op principles, but because of the clear dedication they had to offering a high-quality, paid (above minimum-wage) internship program.
When I was nearing the end of my contract, they continued to support me by directing me to the Canadian Co-operative Association to participate in their internship program (furthering my career, but also giving me the opportunity to see what co-ops can accomplish internationally). When I returned, I used the co-op model to develop a seasonal, youth-led, farming co-op to provide unemployed youth with summer jobs - and my brother started a worker co-op (a board game cafe) that employs more than five people year-round, some of which are full-time.
While it might seem like it, I'm not telling this story to self-promote. The point of this story is that for me, my fellow interns, the youth employed by the farm, my brother, and his employees, co-ops contributed to our income during economic hardship and high rates of youth unemployment - and I think the world could use a little more of that.