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posted bydru - View profile

October 27, 2009

Coverage of Innovative Cooperatives


The Media Co-op has recently established a small but exciting fund dedicated to coverage of cooperatives in Canada.

We're looking for examples of innovative and successful cooperatives to be featured in a series of profile, to be featured on the Media Co-op sites and in The Dominion.

Of particular interest are cooperatives that exemplify a democratic or community-centred alternative to the corporate or neoliberal model of development. Also of interest: cooperatives that have responded creatively or productively to the economic crisis.

Post your ideas below! Please include links to web sites or existing coverage whenever possible.


affordable, green housing

 Great project!

We started a co-op in Victoria BC to buy existing rental properties and convert them to carbon neutral, resident-run buildings.  Check it out!

Coop ideas

Check out some great and very successful coops in Nelson, BC:


- Nelson Carshare Coop


- Kootenay Coop Natural Country Store

This food coop is amazing. It is a thriving grocery store on the main street of this town. Workers are paid really well with benefits, and the coop gives back to the community in so many different ways - they have one day a month where a percentage of the sales go to a local community group, they give small bursaries, help fund community events and donate regularly to the local food bank, among other things. They fully support local producers by showcasing them and making buying local food easy through labeling and promotion.


- Kootenay Bakery Cafe Coop

Worker owned bakery coop, also thrives on the main street of Nelson.


- CJLY - Kootenay Coop Radio


Also, check out the BC Institute for Cooperative Studies for various examples:




Worker Co-op

There is a great worker co-op in Guelph ON called the Sumac Community Worker Co-operative. They have run Planet Bean (fair trade coffee) for years and are now starting up a division called wear fair clothing.

West End Food Co-op

I've been with working (for two years, here in Parkdale, Toronto) with a number of people such as Sally Miller (coop/food activist and author of Edible Action, 2009) on an innovative food coop model - part worker-owner. part consumer and part producer (farmers, artisan bakers, etc...). Two years ago we started a local Farmers' Market - Sorrauren Farmers' Market on Mondays from 3-7 (once a month in Winter). We had a grand launch a few months ago and we are in the process of selling memberships and raising capital through bond sales. Check us out!
My name is John Richmond and I can be reached at
I'm really impressed with the coops and social enterprises listed here. I grew up in Vancouver and was a regular at La Quena on the Drive.

Some suggestions

I don't know about the details of all of these, but some of them might be good to include. has a pretty interesting funding model. It's based in the US and I don't know if it's run as a coop, but it's probably still worth looking at.

CCEC: Cooperative bank in Vancouver.

La Quena: Vancouver cafe, closed several years ago.

L'x: Montreal Bar, closed a few years ago.


Bike related:

Natural Cycle (Winnipeg)

Toronto Courier Coop

Independent Messengers (Montreal)

Belleville Cycle Coop (Montreal)

Our Community Bikes (Vancouver)

CED Program for Low Income and Other Marginalized Women

 Thanks Hilary for mentioning our new co-op development program for women in Moncton and we would be delighted to share our excitement and enthusiasm about the new program.  

More Co-op story ideas!

I attended the Canadian Worker Co-op Conference in NB last month and came back with lots of interesting ideas.


Co-ops run by women living in poverty or otherwise marginalized:
In Edmonton, the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op seems amazing.  Mandate: To support immigrant and refugee individuals and families in attaining optimum health through relevant health education, community development and advocacy.
The Co-op is run entirely by immigrant women.  I was most struck by the way the woman (Yvonne Chiu) spoke about the work.  She's got an amazing analysis, and her approach is deeply rooted in love and care.  She talks about the co-op model being essential to their work.  She said a lot of amazing stuff, much of which I can't remember....but she'd be great to interview.
There was lots of talk of how co-ops are rarely offered as an example of a business model for immigrants or whoever, when they want to start their own business.  David Daughton of the Co-Op Zone Development Network would also be good to talk to about this (I have everyone's contacts).
There's also a model that will be starting in January in Mocton called the Cooperative Enterprise Development Program.  The mandate is to build sustainable livlihoods for marginalized and low income women through helping them start up businesses in the form of co-ops.  They could also be interviewed....

First Nations Co-ops. 
I didn't manage to get much info on this but I know they're out there.  There is one in Northern Saskatchewan that's going to be doing forestry stuff and is at arm's length of the band council.  Another in Manitoba called the White Fish Opportunities Worker Co-op.  And some kind of co-op that's trying to get aboriginal people into housing.

Farmer Co-ops
I also didn't get a lot of info about this except from this one guy in Dieppe who's managed to create an incredible market for local farmers through a co-op.  I know of another story in a small Quebec town where the town came together to support farmers (through a co-op store) and managed to create a really strong rural economy.

Local people/Workers taking over a business and forming a co-op.
I'd really love to find an example (or possible example) of workers taking over a plant.  I'm sure there's something out there.

Co-ops as an alternative to the capitalist economy
This one might not be on any specific co-ops but just as co-ops emerging as a trend.  Apparently Jeremy Rifkin did a pretty amazing speech (audio  soon to be available) at the International Co-operative Alliance General Assembly in Geneva this month that was kind of on this topic.  There are also many others folks could talk to about this. 

Housing Co-ops

Many housing co-ops, that have been operating for decades, are now reaching the point where they're paying off their morgages.  Ironically, due to government funding, this may put some co-ops at risk. 

loved your ideas

I can't believe I have come across this post!!!

I work for the International Co-operative Alliance for the Americas and last year we launched the ICA-Americas Newsletter to promote further integration among co-operatives in North, Central and South America.  ICA-Americas´ head office is situated in Costa Rica, but I do my job as a freelance journalist from Uruguay (a long way from Canada!!).

We started a new section in the newsletter by the end of 2009 called: "Co-op case studies" aiming at presenting our readers with successful or interesting co-op stories. We made a contact in the US for our first co-op story and we discovered "Equal Exchange" which is a co-op dedicated to fair trade with small-scale coffee farmers in the developing world. It was great! However, it has been difficult for us to make contacts in Canada.

it would be great for us to be able to interview someone at the co-op run by women you mentioned at the top of the post or any other co-operative you feel its work is worth sharing with cooperators throughout the Americas.

Hope you can help me



Philly Bike Co-op

This is in the US but it's pretty dope:


winnnipeg co-ops

In response to your request for interesting co-op stories, there are 2 in Winnipeg that come to mind:


1.  Neechi Foods, an aboriginal worker cooperative operating an inner city grocery store for close to 20 years is expanding.  They have bought a facility on Main Street and are renovating it to create Neechi Commons, where they will be an anchor tenant.  Other socially responsible food and craft vendors will also be able to rent space.  Neechi Foods is listed in the Winnipeg phone book, and the contact would be Russ Rothney.


2.  Environ-Safe Cleaning is a worker cooperative providing commercial cleaning services and is comprised of refugees from The Congo.  Their video was screened at the CWCF conference.  They are going to be part of a coalition of social enterprises providing service to the new federal Housing and Homelessness pilot initiative in Wpg (one of 4 pilot cities)  Contact person would be Terri Proulx at Seed Winnipeg.

Sonando Sofia Co-op Inc

 my workers co-op, we are in Ottawa, we run umi cafe:

cooperative bookstore the oldest in Vancouver

From the "What the Dominion should cover" discussion:

More co-op ideas...

A non-profit news cooperative has started up in Chicago is writing for the New York Tmes:

An open source drug development co-op:

Co-ops weathering the economic storm:

communty saves local hardward store in winnipeg by making it a co-op:

A report on the resilience of the co-op business model in times of crisis:

Co-op thoughts

I like worker-owned co-ops because I think consumer co-ops suffer from (1) lack of member loyalty, and (2) lack of ethical motivation.

A few years ago, after corresponding with all Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) candidates for the board on the subject of outsourcing to China, which I believe put Serratus, one of the companies that made MEC great, out of business, I chopped up my membership card. I was appalled at the puerile level of response and the total lack of ethical concern. This subject has not been well explained and necessary information is hard to find. I did note that MEC is now buying from Israel.

I like the look of La Siembra Co-op in Ottawa, producers of Cocoa Camino cocoa and chocolate goods and think their business deserves description. It is because of such business courage that Cadbury's say they have taken their flaship Dairy Bar fair trade.

Come to think of it, the whole area of fair trade and bringing fair trade home deserve attention.


And the silliness of MBA programs and students....

co-op democracy

I felt the same way about MEC and have been plugging away for many years.  But MEC does many things very well - we should not forget that.  And they still sell many Canadian products.  At the end of the day MEC, like all co-ops, is a democracy.  It is up to us to bring change through other MEC members.  The problem is that MEC exists within a conservative, consumer-capitalist environment - and faces many challenges which stem from this.  These days I think we should be pushing for employees at MEC to have a greater say/participation in the co-op (change the culture a little) AND some form of on-line participation for members (where we can respectfully debate these important issues).  

Depaneur Sylvestre coop, Gatineau, Quebec

Amazin coop social space:

Do cover it.

Contact me if I can help.

Lutsel K'e Community Garden

We have just finished our second season of Lutsel K'e Community Garden, a community volunteer group dedicated to improving the sustainability of the community, among other things...

We've had news coverage on CBC North t.v. and radio over the past two years,

Please join our group on facebook, or email me for more info,

Marsi Cho!

Problem with activation

Hi there, I dont know if I am writing in a proper board but I have got a problem with activation, link i receive in email is not working...,

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