The Co-operative Innovation Project: Executive Summary

The Co-operative Innovation Project,

Year: 2016

The Co-operative Innovation Project (CIP), a two-year pilot project funded by Federated Cooperatives Limited, was created to examine two questions: is the co-op model feasible in rural and Aboriginal communities in western Canada, and if so, what is needed to inspire rural and Aboriginal communities to explore and create co-operatives that thrive?

The Co-operative Innovation Project defines rural western Canada as a combined and indivisible rural and Aboriginal space. Neither can be viewed without the other. As such, it was one of the largest projects to ever ask both rural and rural Aboriginal residents and communities the same questions, at the same time. Patterns of both similarity and difference provide a path forward to work together.

The CIP found that yes, the co-op model remains feasible in rural and Aboriginal communities as a locally-driven solution to address unmet needs. What is needed is a dual approach: vigorous co-op development activity at the community level; and focused effort at the pan-provincial level to leverage economies of scale and connect the western Canadian co-operative community. The CIP research results indicate that people will explore and create innovative and thriving co-operatives if they are inspired to do so, and supported through politically-aware relationship-building and connections throughout the process.

Download the Co-operative Innovation Project Executive Summary

To promote vigorous co-op development activity in rural and Aboriginal communities, the CIP propose that future co-operative development should:

  • Inspire co-operative development at the community level through direct engagement events and relationship-building with potential co-op leaders.
  • Explore innovative uses of the co-operative model that address locally-defined and constantly-changing community needs.
  • Create opportunities to bring technical assistance from co-operative developers to communities looking to build or grow co-operatives.
  • Direct a robust co-operative environment, supporting co-operatives to Thrive.
  • Connect those involved in rural and Aboriginal co-operative development activities across provincial boundaries, the co-operative sector, and communities

Executive Summary
1. Co-operative Development
2. Co-operative Development with Aboriginal Communities
3. Co-operative Development in Western Canada
4. Co-operative Development Building Strong Co-operatives
5. Model of a Robust Co-operative Development Environment

Table of Contents

CIP Phase I: Findings
Inspire (How to inspire communities to consider co-operative solutions to their needs?):
1: Communities have different strengths, weaknesses, and needs.
2: There are limited statistics regarding co-operative formation and operations in western Canada.
3: There is limited knowledge and take-up of the co-op model in western Canada.
4: Robust co-operative development is an active, lengthy, and political process that is best done through face-to-face consultation.
5: Co-op development has political and cultural implications. Community gatekeepers are a critical element of the development process.
Explore (Is the co-operative approach right for the community to solve its identified need?):
6: The co-op model requires social and business capacity support from the community.
7: Specialized community knowledge and a robust toolbox of co-op examples are needed.
8: The co-op model requires local empowerment. Communities must embrace the coop model themselves; it cannot be imposed. It is not always the right model.
Create (How do we support setting up new co-operatives?):
9: Some technical knowledge exists to develop new co-ops. Co-op development funding is necessary.
10: Volunteer patterns have changed.
Thrive (How do we provide on-going support for the growth and development of co-ops?):
11: Technical knowledge exists to support existing co-ops to thrive but it is neither coordinated nor well-used.