My goal: to add complexity to your way of thinking about co-ops
Formal Co-ops (Big C) and informal co-operation (natural state of farming communities)Because what choice do little guys have (without money, without power, without a voice), unless they band together?Because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts
The ‘co-operative difference’
Arctic Co-operatives Limited was incorporated in 1972.Provides support to a co-op network with combined revenues of approximately $196.9 million in 2011.The Member Co-op Patronage Refund in 2011 was $13.3 million.Over 900 people are employed.The 31 Co-ops are independently owned and controlled Inuit and Dene businesses. They operate retail facilities, hotels, cable operations, construction, outfitting, arts and crafts production and property rentals.
Co-ops are also being widely recognized as a strategy for farm succession planning, as well as general succession planning for the businesses of retiring baby boomers
The richest 10% of people own 85% of the world’s wealth.1,210 billionaires control $4.5 trillion in wealth.
This is fact 1: Canadian farmers have produced and sold more than $800 billion worth of farm products since 1985. Fact 2 is that, over the same period, from that $800-billion-plus of production, farmers have managed to hang on to just $3 billion in realized net farm income from the markets.Over the past quarter-century, farmers have managed to hold onto just 0.4% of their total receipts in the form of net income. The transnationals that provide farm inputs and services—fertilizer and chemical companies, banks, etc.—captured the other 99.6%.
In 1952, Canada’s farmers received forty-seven cents of every consumer food dollar. Today it is only twenty cents.Local Organic Food Co-ops provide farmers with sixty cents or more of the consumer food dollar. This is fair trade.
This does not include the more conventional co-ops within the Canadian food system, like Agris, GrowMark, and even the federations in Atlantic Canada, Federated Co-ops in the West, and those in Quebec. Here also we are missing icons for the dairy co-ops (of which there are many), and the fruit growers co-ops like Vineland and Norfolk in Ontario.
Women had the vote within co-ops before they had equal votes in societyAnd is the intended democracy the actual lived experience? WHO owns the grocery store? All member-owners? Or the ones with the loudest voices? Who sits on the board of directors? Why?One member, one vote – Principle 2 – is what makes co-ops a more democratic form of business (this is the idea)Some of your own experiences in co-ops may inform you otherwise
Founding fathers myth – 1844 Manchester co-op started it all in RochedaleMutual Aid societies have existed for as long as people have needed to work together to get by – Japanese Canadian Fishing Co-ops in the early 1900s – Great research coming out of UVIC’s centre for studies in co-operationLet’s name racism here
Co-producers instead of consumers/ Developing Co-operative Foodwebs or supply chains- A way to participate in our food system, whether as city-dwellers deciding what gets sold in their grocery store, or as farmers aggregating goods and deciding on prices for their cropsBut sovereignty means control, and we must constantly ask, who is it that has control in the co-op?Are co-ops truly successful at becoming loci for sovereignty? They still must function within systems of capitalism and competition – how much activity may be driven by ideology and how much by necessity?
Who is at the table?The start-up costs and sweat equity associated are a privilege very few in our society can affordAnd yet, agricultural co-ops around the world are thriving and important businesses and means of wresting control over the food system back from corporationsEmerging literature about the role of co-ops in building peace (Ian MacPherson)
Ontario’s Local Organic Food Co-ops have been started by people in communities across Ontario.Who’s at the table? What do you notice in common about all of these people? These are just the organizers, and then we need to ask, who are they engaging at the community level?
Community benefit at Your Local Market – transformational for individuals involved with the co-op and for the local economyWe have transformation embedded right within our Network membership criteria Fort Albany – partnership with True North Community Co-op to make use of Nutrition North Subsidy and bring fresh food from the Ontario Food Terminal (via FoodShare) to be sold at cost to Fort Albany community. This is true co-operation. How transformative are either of these co-ops, embedded within the very systems and structures they are fighting to change?
International Year of Co-operatives has been a tremendous opportunity for solidarityNetworksPrinciple 6: co-operation among co-operatives
Many co-ops break down over interpersonal conflicts, not equipped to deal with issues as they ariseTremendous Co-op Pride, because people can feel like they’re living out their principles!
Multistakeholder, representative of this new wave of co-ops sweeping North AmericaHundreds of members, but only a handful are producers, workers, and community partnersConsumers are fickle, even the ones that shop at co-opsTook 6 years to open its doorsServing an ‘ecotone’ – edge of parkdale and Queen St. W (low-income, diverse + rapidly gentrifying – largest population of Tibetans outside of India)
Strawberry patch: to remain relevant, co-ops of a certain size must stop expanding and put energy into sending out a ‘daughter plant.’ That is to say, support other co-ops, initiate new activities that may draw on the energies of the co-op (mother plant) and reinforce the co-operative values and principles, thus growing a network and adding to resilience.
Ontario Federation of Food Co-ops and Clubs (The FEDs)36 years oldOne of 2 co-op distributors left in North AmericaRealizing it can’t just be a distributor anymore, and is diversifying activities
Hannah Renglich - Group Decision Making
Group Decision Making Hannah Renglich
Agenda• Introductions• Defining “democratic”• Methodologies and Mechanisms - HOW• Participants – WHO• Spaces in which Decisions get Made – WHERE• Cultures of Decision Making• A critical perspective on co-ops
Introductions• Name• Co-op• Decision Making structure or system used• Level of satisfaction with that system
Articulating Democracy• Most human beings have the potential to make reasoned, fair and compassionate decisions• A plurality of opinions is a healthy thing
Truly Democratic Organizing Principles• Equalizing Access to Power• Transparency• Democratic Decision Making• Balancing Rights and Responsibilities• Equalizing Inequalities (Equity)• Leadership Empowerment and Creation
Where is the Decision Made?• Informally• When everyone is together• In committees empowered by the larger group
Culture of Decision Making• Systemic Power Dynamics and Oppression• Informal Power1. How open is your decision making process?2. How does your group tackle difficult decisions?3. Do people implement decisions made?4. When does the decision get made?*Vibesminder
Co-operative Approaches toAlternative Food and Farm Initiatives: This is Democracy? Wednesday February 27 LOFC Network 4th Assembly
Broadening the Conversation Do co-operatives promote inclusivity, democracy, sovereignty and transformation?Hannah Renglich, Local Organic Food Co-ops Network
Why Co-operate?Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable - Kenyan Proverb
7 Principles of Co-operative Identity1. Voluntary and Open Membership All Welcome – No Pressure2. Democratic Member Control One Member = One Vote3. Member Economic Participation No Free Rides4. Autonomy and Independence Self-Control5. Education, Training + Information Share, Learn, Grow6. Co-operation Among Co-operatives Together Everyone Achieves More7. Concern for Community Building Strong CommunitiesThe current Statement on the Co-operative Identity was adopted at the 1995 Congress and General Assembly of the International Co-operative Alliance. The Statement was the product of a lengthy process of consultation involving thousands of co-operators around the world, chaired by Ian MacPherson of Canada.
Co-ops in Canada• There are over 9,000 co-operatives in Canada• One in four Canadians is a member of a co-op or credit union• In Canada, co-ops have 1.4 million members and 15,500 employees
Co-ops provide over one hundred million jobs around the world – 20% more than transnational corporationsCo-ops have a market share of 39% of all milk products in Canada 35% of the worlds maple syrup isproduced by co-operatives in Quebec Co-operatives market about 57% of all poultry and eggs produced in Canada
Co-ops weathereconomic recessions and outlive corporations Co-ops can be owned by eaters (consumers), farmers (producers), workers, and other stakeholders
Share of World’s Wealth 15% Top $ 10% Bottom 90% 85%
Share of Farm Revenue (Canada: 1985 to 2009) 0.4% Farmers Suppliers & Banks 99.6%
Transformation• Value co-operation and are either – incorporated as co-ops – co-operatively structured collectives – in process toward incorporation, with the stated intention to incorporate – utilize the co-operative principles within their governance as a guiding framework (ie. co-op-minded)• Centre around food and farming or have some component of food and farming within their activities• Emphasize direct relationship: local, regional, sustainable food production and distribution, domestic or international fair trade• Have a defined and stated environmental commitment, ie. organic, sustainable, Integrated Pest Management, wildcrafted, biodynamic, permaculture, etc.• Uphold the principles of positively transforming the food system toward greater co-operation, sustainability, and resilience
Lifecycle of a Co-op• Co-ops fill a need of a community, which is unaddressed by markets or governments• When that need no longer exists, the co-op may cease to be relevant• Mature and ageing co-ops may come to resemble corporations, without careful attention to maintaining their co-operative values• Strawberry patch model and P6