By Camille Jensen. Originally posted on axiomnews.ca
Unleashing Local Capital’s pilot communities will convene next week to share best practices in local investment and economic development.
Unleashing Local Capital was launched by the Alberta Community and Co-operative Association last spring with a mission to revitalize rural communities. Funded by the Rural Alberta Development Fund, the initiative aims to build community investment co-ops to solve one of the main challenges to rural development, access to capital to finance local business development and succession planning.
Four pilot communities — Vegreville, Crowsnest Pass, Olds and Fahler — have since created community investment co-operatives tackling issues like affordable housing, seniors housing and business succession planning.
ACCA’s director of co-op development Paul Cabaj says the community investment funds are demonstrating what’s possible when communities take development into their own hands instead of waiting for government intervention.
“In some ways government intervention is not the solution, it’s got to come from people identifying the needs locally and really leveraging their social capital and their love for their community and their willingness to invest in it,” Paul tells ACCA News.
When reflecting on the initiative so far, Paul says there is a sense of pride in the fact that the community investment funds haven’t faced any major roadblocks, and investments are RRSP-eligible.
He adds it’s been interesting to see how community investment funds can actually spark new interest and competition from other entrepreneurs, which one of the community funds is experiencing.
The four pilot communities will be gathering in Red Deer, one day before ACCA hosts its Gathering of Alberta Co-operatives, where they will share best practices and build connections among the communities.
“It’s bringing the family together,” Paul says, adding relationships and sharing lessons among the group is key to success.
“We really need to learn from each other and establish a base moving forward.”.
The meeting will be recorded with some of the sessions used for training other groups interested in starting a community investment co-op.
Peter Couchman, chief executive of the Plunkett Foundation, will also be presenting a keynote during the day, sharing how the United Kingdom’s co-operative movement has been able to solve social problems, and in doing so caught the attention of the federal government.
For more information on Unleashing Local Capital, see the ACCA website.