Co-ops encouraged to consider the gift they will bring to Canada’s 150th anniversary
By Jennifer Neutel
There was a lot of excitement and energy in the room when more than 70 people convened to celebrate co-operatives at the Alberta Community and Co-operative Association’s (ACCA) AGM and open house April 26.
Dan Ohler, ACCA co-op development officer and chair of the Sangudo Opportunity Development Co-operative, says it was great to see more people than usual attend the AGM and the energy build throughout the day.
He says he thinks the information shared and learned at the event will spread, as people leave a day like that and talk with their families and colleagues.
“I think it broadened people’s vision about what a co-op could be,” says Dan.
Participants at the Red Deer, Alta., event met new people when they formed small groups for different activities, such as when they were asked to share stories of positive things happening in the co-op world. For this exercise, groups had to draw a picture, create a headline and a caption.
Among the ideas that emerged was that “Co-ops are building a better Alberta together,” with participants creating a circle out of their business cards.
Yvonne Fizer, business development consultant for the FarmOn Foundation, says it was her first time attending a Canadian co-op event. The common language appealed to her, she says, as people talked about supporting local communities.
At one point Yvonne sat at a table with four people over 65. They had joined co-ops at a young age and have always thought from the local and collective perspective, she says.
Yvonne says through this experience she realized a local focus isn’t just a young person’s movement.
“It’s a tradition that the co-op association has the chance of rebirthing with a younger generation,” she says
Jessica Barrie, a community investment manager at UFA Co-operative Limited, was new to the co-op sector when she began her role in 2009.
She says she enjoyed coming together with like-minded companies at the open house and sharing how the sector is coming together to celebrate and educate non co-op members about co-op benefits.
Sarah Arthurs, Alberta co-ordinator for the International Year of Co-operatives (IYC) who helped organize the event, says it was surprising to experience the sense of energy, connection and networking throughout the day.
“The day was made richer by all the people that came,” says Sarah.
The event included a panel on how the IYC is contributing to the growth of the co-op sector, a luncheon featuring ACCA’s annual Co-operative Leadership Awards, as well as updates on Alberta’s co-op cluster groups, ACCA’s new story-sharing partnership with Axiom News and the Unleashing Local Capital initiative.
The final speaker of the day was Colin Jackson, chair of imagiNATION 150, a citizen-driven organization looking to start a movement around Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. He says 2017 is a time to consider what quality and character Canadians want to see more of and bring gifts to our community, region and country.
“The co-op movement is a particularly rich territory because these are people who have already decided to take some action to build a stronger community,” says Colin.
“By nature, the co-op is about how we together can do something, make something, be something that’s going to be of service and economically sound.”
He encourages co-op members to mark 2017 as part of their future planning.
The question of what gift the Alberta co-op sector wants to give Canada for its sesquicentennial will be discussed during the Alberta Co-op Sector Engagement Event Nov. 16-17. The ACCA event will gather co-ops from across the province in a visioning and planning session.
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