Strengths of Co-op Model Highlighted at IYC Launch

Strengths of Co-op Model Highlighted at IYC Launch

Speakers share how co-operatives strengthen communities

CALGARY – During the Jan. 12 launch of the International Year of Co-operatives (IYC), speakers at the Calgary Farmers’ Market shared strengths and hopes for the sector during this year.

Hosted by the Alberta Community and Co-operative Association (ACCA), The Co-operators and the Conseil de Développement Économique de L’Alberta, attendees at the free event first took in the national launch webcast live from Ottawa.

Following the national launch, Calgary continued with a program that included greetings from Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security Jonathan Denis, who attended on behalf of Alberta’s premier.

He shared the story of visiting his grandfather’s farm as a boy in Saskatchewan and asking why he chose to go to the credit union and local co-op food store. The answer was because “they enable us to work hard for our community and to pool our resources together.”

  Marc Tremblay, Kathy Bardswick, Rick Cowburn, and Cayley Wallace were panellists during Calgary’s International Year of Co-operatives launch.

Denis noted that this isn’t very different from today.

“We have people that are pulling together, that are taking their products to market and that are working together to build a better community in Calgary and outside as well.”

He said co-operatives will continue to be a big part of Alberta and Canada in the future.

“I look forward to the year ahead, how we can expand the co-operative movement in Calgary, in Alberta, and throughout our country.”

Russell Wolf, chair of the ACCA, mentioned the celebrations happening in nine other sites in the province and the organizations that made the event possible.

“Today is just the beginning. We have the whole year ahead of us to share the story of co-ops with our own staff and members and to collaborate with our neighbours and other co-ops, to include more Albertans in the celebration of co-ops here in Alberta,” said Wolf.

Four panellists presented on why the international year is good for Alberta, including: Cayley Wallace, a member of the Canadian Co-operative Association’s National Youth Caucus from UFA Co-operative Limited; Rick Cowburn of the Spark Energy Co-operative; Kathy Bardswick, CEO of The Co-operators and International Co-operative Alliance board member; and Marc Tremblay, president and CEO of the Conseil de Développement Économique de L’Alberta (who spoke in French).

Wallace highlighted the importance of engaging and educating youth about co-operatives.

She attended the ACCA Co-operative Youth Leadership Program as a teenager and said it taught her what being a co-operative and a co-operative member means. Many youth don’t understand that co-ops in Canada give back millions of dollars to their communities, said Wallace.

She says 2012 is a time to celebrate what can be achieved through working together and to teach youth about the benefits and opportunities co-operatives offer them and their communities.

“Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders and co-operative members,” she said.

Cowburn shared about the Spark Energy Co-operative’s objective for small, local production of electricity on an individual basis.

“The advantage of a co-op is that we are bringing together a group of people who are interested in doing things for themselves to benefit the community that they are a part of, and not simply a corporation which is trying to make profits,” he said.

Bardswick kudoed Alberta’s sizable reach in terms of the population involved in the co-operative system.

She added that likely there are not enough people fully engaged and using their voice in the co-operatives. She challenged people to continue the work and use 2012 as a launch pad.

“Let’s use this year as a launch so . . . in the year 2020, which is the International Co-operative Alliance’s goal, we can look back and say the economic model of co-operatives is the fastest growing model in the world.”

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Jennifer Neutel

Jennifer Neutel is a Story Advocate and Generative Journalist at Axiom News. She completed her Bachelor of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa in 2006, and joined Axiom News in 2007. She has taken on a variety of roles at Axiom including new social media intiatives and has a passion for creating strengths-based questions that can lead to positive change.

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