A Cooperative Primer

cooperation

Better Together.

Time for a primer on cooperatives, because apart from knowing you’re a valued member of Skookum and that you gain value from our cooperative, it’s important to know what we are creating together. This little review includes the different types of cooperatives out there, how Skookum bridges several types (while primarily being classified as a Non-profit Community Service Co-op, primarily engaged in the Consumer Co-op model; see below) and what your role is in the whole thing. Consider this part one of a multi-part series on cooperatives. Cooperatives are becoming much more popular, and in future posts, we will discuss why that is.

The information below was culled from the British Columbia Cooperative Association website (we maintain membership in the BCCA) and from the Canadian Cooperative Association.
 

Types of Co-ops 

Co-operatives are unified by their democratic structure, but different co-ops may be set up for different purposes.

Consumer co-operatives: These are co-operatives whose members are their customers; the majority of consumer co-operatives are retail stores. Mountain Equipment Co-op, UFA and the local retail co-ops that are part of Federated Co-operatives Limited, Co-op Atlantic and Arctic Co-operatives Limited are examples of consumer co-operatives. Housing co-ops, carshare co-ops, funeral co-ops and other types of service co-ops are also consumer co-operatives. At Skookum we have ‘Consumer co-operative’ as one of our models for The Abundant Pantry Bulk Buying Club (TAP) and for bulk purchases of seed, trees, Tattler canning lids, and food dehydrators ( interested in heading a project? Click here).

Other models we dip into have to do with community education, with the potential to engage in cooperatively purchased land, tools, and a host of other things that would grow out of our mission, values/principles and purpose statements.

Financial co-operatives: Credit unions and caisses populaires are examples of financial co-operatives. Like consumer co-operatives, the members of financial co-operatives are the individuals or business owners who use their services. Another type of financial co-operative is The Co-operators, an insurance company which is owned by Canadian co-operatives, credit union centrals and like-minded organizations.

Producer co-operatives: These are groups of producers who band together to process and/or market their products. Agricultural co-ops like Gay Lea Foods, Agropur, La Coop fédérée, Organic Meadow, Scotsburn Dairy, Farmer’s Dairy, Northumberland Dairy, Citadelle, Granny’s Poultry and Organic Meadow are examples of producer co-operatives.

Worker co-operatives: These are businesses owned and controlled by their employees. La Siembra (Camino chocolate products), Just Us! Coffee Roasters, The Big Carrot and the Vancouver Renewable Energy Co-op are examples of worker co-operatives.

Multi-stakeholder co-operatives: These co-operatives include different categories of members who share a common interest in the organization: for example, clients, employees, investors and community organizations. Multi-stakeholder co-operatives in Canada include Common Ground Co-operative, which provides employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities; the West End Food Co-op, a Toronto co-op owned by consumers, producers and employees, and the Aylmer Health Co-op, formed by citizens, doctors and health professionals to improve community health services in Gatineau, QC.

Mutuals and co-operatives: Mutuals, which in Canada exist primarily in the insurance sector, are governed by different legislation than co-operatives but operate under a similar business model. Both mutuals and co-operatives are independent associations of individuals who have voluntarily come together to fulfill their economic or social needs through co-ownership in a democratically-run organizations. Source: http://www.canada2012.coop/en/what_is_a_cooperative/Types-of-co-operatives

coopstuff

Click above for a list of some popular Canadian cooperatives.

 Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative is a Community Service Co-op

Since April 2007, an amendment the BC Co-op Act means that “non-profit” co-ops can now be incorporated as Community Service Co-ops and have similar status to non-profit societies. The change made community service co-ops eligible for charitable status via CCRA. Skookum has this designation, but at this time we are not seeking charitable status, but this is certainly a possibility for the future.

The Community Service Co-op designation ended the confusion arising from uncertainty surrounding the legal status of non-profit co-ops, while affirming the democratic structure of member ownership and control that is unique to the co-op model.

As a Community Service Co-op, Skookum’s Memorandum of Association includes all of the following non-alterable provisions:

  1. That the co-op is a community service co-operative,
  2. That the co-op will not issue investment shares,
  3. That the co-op’s purposes are charitable or to provide health, social, educational or other community services,
  4. That upon dissolution, the co-op’s property must be transferred to another community service co-op or a charitable organization,
  5. That no part of the property of the co-op is to be distributed to members while it is in operation.

Want to start your own cooperative? Here’s a guide: http://www.fin.gov.bc.ca/registries/corppg/forms/guide.pdf

Guide for “Cultivating Co-ops” http://farmfolkcityfolk.ca/PDFs_&_Docs/Cultivating_Co-ops.pdf

 

 

About Gianni

Giovanni Spezzacatena is a Powell River artist working in graphic design, animation, web design and development, and education, and more. He has been a board member of Skookum Food Provisioners' Cooperative from pretty much the start, and now acts as communications/fundraising director. His website is www.rabideye.com; his own blog is at rabideye.wordpress.com.
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