New Co-operative Development in Canada: Findings from Research Emerging from the Co-operative Development Initiative (2009-2013)

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Duguid, Fiona
Derya Tarhan, Mumtaz
Vieta, Marcelo
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Measuring the Co-operative Difference Research Network
This report reviews the experiences, innovations and challenges of new non-financial co-operatives in Canada. The researchers looked at how non-financial co-operatives across Canada sought to meet their communities’ social, cultural, economic and environmental needs, and why the co-operative model was chosen over other business types. The researchers also looked at the challenges faced in starting-up a non-financial co-operative, and why co-ops succeed or fail to overcome these challenges. Finally the researchers looked at innovative practices adopted by these co-ops in order to offer both members and surrounding communities new or better ways of provisioning for their needs. The researchers used a sample of new and emerging co-operatives involved with the Co-operative Development Initiative (CDI) from 2009-2013. Highlights from the results include: - a predominance of socially focused motivators driving the start-up of new co-op in Canada, including social services, alternative health care, organic food, renewable energy, community economic development (CED) and offering employment for marginalized communities. - New Canadian co-ops are experiencing a common set of challenges, including lack of knowledge by founders of the specifics of the co-op model; lack of resources for start-up and growth; human resources issues (e.g. volunteer burnout, membership engagement); and governance issues. For overcoming these challenges, many co-ops use the expertise of a co-operative developer. - This study found evidence for the strong role of informal learning in the sample co-operatives. The report concludes with a list of major recommendations to support new co-operative development in Canada, including the need to design a comprehensive strategic plan to support new co-ops, accompanied by appropriate legislation, funding sources, and networking opportunities; to build-up the activities of key supportive co-operative organisations; to provide further supports to co-operative developers; and to support the creation of more formal education outlets and co-operative knowledge mobilization initiatives in all provinces.