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Expanding co-operative business development

By Daniel Jungwirth

September 25, 2018

Across Western Canada, rural and Indigenous community leaders are looking for unique and innovative ways to grow their communities and help local economies thrive. With support from FCL and the Co-operative Retailing System, Co-operatives First has the mandate and mission to encourage these leaders to “Consider a Co-op.”

Here are two ways they’re making a direct impact.

Creating seniors housing in rural communities

Many rural communities in Western Canada are struggling with increased demand for seniors housing. In Davidson, Sask., older residents are often forced to leave home and family behind in search of appropriate housing in urban centres. To address this challenge, an entrepreneurial group from this small town, in the heart of Saskatchewan’s grain belt, began exploring housing options, which led them to Co-operatives First.

“We’re seeing interest in seniors’ housing from communities across Western Canada, but especially in the Prairie provinces,” said Audra Krueger, Executive Director of Co-operatives First. “Forming a co-op is a tangible solution for smaller communities, and we’re happy to be able to support these enterprising folks with community consultations, planning and incorporation.”

Thanks to guidance from Co-operatives First, the group in Davidson is now on the verge of incorporating and moving forward as Davidson Prairie View Community Services Housing Co-operative Limited.

“Davidson has highly entrepreneurial residents with a keen interest in keeping older members of their families close to home,” said Krueger. “This buy-in and drive is key to their success so far and will be essential in realizing their vision going forward.”

Getting fish to market in Manitoba

Recently federal regulations moved away from single desk marketing, and Métis and First Nation fishers were faced with a challenge and opportunity.

The challenge for the fishers is not only to reduce risk, decrease costs and increase market access, but also to compete with global market forces. The opportunity is to work together with other fishers and fishing co-ops to create a single, significant “voice” for their products, while creating the security, cost savings and consistency that comes with partnership.

“For small, independent business owners – like fishers – accessing broader, more lucrative markets in an affordable and efficient way is nearly impossible without working co-operatively with peers,” said Kyle White, Education and Engagement Lead with Co-operatives First. “With the federal government moving away from single-desk marketing, taking the opportunity to work together makes a lot of sense.”

Today, with the support of Co-operatives First, hundreds of Métis and First Nations fishers are working to structure Turtle Island Commercial Fishers Co-op Limited, which aims to put their products in front of international buyers.