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About the 2017 Co-op Connections Series

Connect your co-op. Build the movement.

Co-op Connections are a series of workships, networking & special events for those interested in co-operatives and the new sharing economy, as well as board, staff and members of co-ops of all kinds. The series is hosted by the Ontario Co-operative Association, often in partnership with other co-operatives and credit unions.

The series is designed to target each region differently and address their specific needs while keeping a consistant theme of connecting co-ops and building the movement across Ontario. Whether you are in housing, daycare, finance, agriculture, or any other sector, our events will help you leverage the co-op difference to set you up for success.

Note: The Co-op Connections Series is made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The Ontario Trillium Foundation is an agency of the Government of Ontario. 

Regional Co-op Development

In the summer of 2015, we applied for a multi-year Trillium Grant, in hopes that we can continue to build on the incredible regional outreach initiatives which began back in 2014 and continued throughout eacrly 2015. We are absolutely thrilled to share the news that in April 2016, we were awarded a two-year grant of $486,500 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation!

Through this funding, we will be able to impact thousands of community members directly and indirectly across the province, through the creation of sixty new co-operative enterprises. The OTF grant will be managed by Co-op Development Manager Peter Cameron, and supported by six Regional Managers who have been hired across the province. To view their contact information and to learn a bit more about them, scroll below!

View the full media release on the Trillium Grant here and stay tuned for more exciting information in the coming weeks and months! 

Regional Managers Contact Information


  • Eastern ON Region - Russ Christianson: [requires javascript]
  • Niagara Region - Laurie Ryan-Hill: [requires javascript]
  • Northwest ON Region - Judy Nelson-Childs: [requires javascript]
  • GTA Region - Reba Plummer: [requires javascript]
  • Southwest ON Region - Paul Roberts: [requires javascript]
  • Northeast ON Region - Maureen Strickland: [requires javascript]


Regional Manager Profiles

We asked our six Regional Managers to tell us:

1. How they got into the co-op sector?

2. What was their proudest accomplishment from their previous regional work?

3. What they were looking forward to continuing or developing with this round of our Co-op Outreach Project?

Here is what they each had to say:


1. Shortly after completing a Masters of Industrial Relations degree in the early 1980s, I was unable to find suitable employment in a labour market shutdown by an economic depression.  Like a lot of young people today, I became an over-qualified, unemployment statistic.  After months of searching, I was faced with the choice of taking an executive position with a large corporation, or accepting a job offer as an underpaid manager with a small wholesale food co-operative (Ontario Natural Food Co-op).  I chose the co-operative fork in the road, and while the financial rewards were not great, the emotional, intellectual and experiential rewards were.  Ever since, I have committed my time and energy to building as many co-operative businesses as possible.

2. In addition to helping people start dozens of co-ops, we were able to support and encourage the development of local and regional co-op networks.

3. Furthering our co-operative business succession materials and strategy to provide retiring business owners with the option of an employee and/or community buy-out, and supporting people to start their own co-operatives.


1. I have always been interested in how people co-exist, whether it is where they live or work.  I was drawn into the co-op sector after being exposed to the Worker Co-op Planet Bean in Guelph.  I approached the members there to learn more about the model and was referenced 2 books to read: We Build the Road as We Travel and Coffee with Pleasure.  I was struck how the co-op model was a way for people to organize and take control of their places of work.

I continued to educate myself and enrolled in the Co-operative Management certificate program offered by On Co-op.  My interest was bolstered and broadened through a solid understanding of the history of the movement and the details surrounding incorporation.

2. Before On Co-op undertook their 2012 International Year of the co-operative work, many of the co-ops in my region of SW Ontario operated in isolation from each other.  In many cases, co-operatives didn't have a clear understanding of the co-operative community that existed or the broad variety of business that operated as member owned enterprises.  My proudest accomplishment to date would be enlightening co-operatives in my region of the network that exists and creating a number of ways in which they can now connect and communicate.

3. For this round of outreach, I am looking forward to continuing to connect the co-op community, as well as enlightening the public and business development organizations about the potential for people to organize using the model.


1. I began working in the co-operative sector as part of the marketing team at PenFinancial Credit Union and quickly grew to love the democratic approach to decision making, as well as the credit union’s focus on bettering communities. I eventually left PenFinancial, choosing a freelance career to better balance her professional and personal life. In the last four years, I have supported activities including the Niagara Co-op Expo, Cowork Niagara and Thorold Co-op Nursery School. My specialities include corporate communications, grassroots public relations and group facilitation. I am also an Adjunct Professor at Niagara College, freelance marketing profession and mother of three busy children.

2. My first steps as Regional Manager in Niagara included encouraging the formation of the Niagara Co-op Network (NCN), a group of co-operative leaders and employees from across the region. I facilitated many group discussions about ways to partner, grow together and further the co-operative movement in Niagara. The NCN continues to stay connected using a Facebook page and group for regular correspondence. My proudest accomplishment was organizing Niagara’s first ever co-operative conference which included well-respected MP, the Honourable Mr. Mauril Bélanger as keynote speaker.

3. Niagara continues to grow, and while baby boomer businesses prepare for retirement, I am ready to engage the labour sector in a discussion about how the worker co-op model can lead to business succession planning. I am also excited to re-engage NCN members with ways to better partner and market co-op services across the region. Lastly, I know that a key to success is engaging business development organizations across the region in an effort to increase awareness of the positive influence co-ops have in bettering communities.


1. I first got into the co-operative sector while living in England. I was working in the field of community development finance and became a board member of the local grassroots credit union. It was this experience that illustrated to me the power of the co-operative model in meeting community and economic development needs. Upon my return to Canada I managed Eat Local Sudbury Co-operative and began working with the Ontario Co-operative Association on outreach work in Northeastern Ontario.

2. My proudest accomplishment from the past regional work is making the link between community economic development and co-operatives more apparent to potential external partners in the region. I have also been very excited about the growth in awareness of the co-operative business model in the region since this outreach work began in 2012.

3. This time I am most looking forward to working in partnership with other co-operative and community development organizations in the region to raise the profile of the co-operative model, bring existing co-operatives together and assist with the establishment of new co-operatives in the region.


  1. Having worked for over 20 years in the social work and employment field, I have always strongly believed that one of the best and most effective way to combat poverty is through full employment and engagement in one’s own community. While working with entrepreneurs, I learned more about the Co-op sector, and I was able to see that Co-ops do help to build stronger communities by meeting community and Regional needs and bringing fairness, equity and justice to the marketplace. Co-ops serve people, whereas most businesses serve their shareholders.

2. During the last Trillium funded Regional project, I was able to make contact with many existing and potential Co-op businesses as well as speak with Credit Unions in our area. We now have an updated listing which has been distributed to Co-ops and Credit Unions in our area, and encourage networking and communication amongst members in Northwestern Ontario.

3. With this next project, I am looking forward to:

  • Further developing the relationship between the Co-op and Credit Union sector, and encourage newly amalgamated and larger Credit Unions in our Region to re-invest and provide flexible financial solutions to businesses in the communities that they serve, and to organizations and individuals who are not well served by existing financial institutions.
  • Seeking more opportunities to provide youth and Indigenous people with a chance to learn more about Co-op principles, and running a Co-op business.
  • Working closely with existing Business Development Organizations within the Region to better understand, promote and develop Co-operatives.


1. I started in the co-op sector when I closed my bicycle shop and joined Urbane Cyclist Worker Co-op. The shared responsibilities and benefits have made a huge difference in my life. As a sole proprietor I had to be present at the shop for all opening hours during peak season but as an avid cyclist this severely cut into my riding time. Now I am able to have a great work/life/bike balance. Shared ownership is the way to go!

2. As a member of Urbane Cyclist and as the Ontario Regional Board Member for the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation I have worked to create better ties between the worker-owned co-operatives in the province. I regularly meet and share information with people who are interested in starting a co-op or who are mired in the technicalities that come with running a business after "the work" is done.

3. In the GTA we have a network that was founded in 2012 when On Co-op held a series of regional roundtables. I feel very lucky to have a steering committee in place and we plan on continuing and broadening the networking opportunities with educational and social events. I will be encouraging and supporting businesses, both existing and start up, who wish to explore the co-op model thru workshops and consultations. 


Co-op Principles in Plain Language

Oct 12, 2015 - The co-op principles are the foundation of co-operatives worldwide. To make them more accessible and easy to understand, On Co-op presents a plain-language translation of each of the seven international principles.

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2018 CDF Banquet & Fundraiser

Oct 12, 2018 - Credit union and co-operative leaders, directors, members, employees and stakeholders...join us for a special celebratory event that supports a great cause!

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