2015 Gathering of Alberta Co-operatives

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2015 Gathering of Alberta Co-operatives
Leveraging The Power of Member-Ownership

Friday, November 20 and Saturday, November 21, 2015
Holiday Inn and Suites, Red Deer South



Member-Ownership – What does it mean for Alberta?


On Friday, November 20, 2015, Red Deer welcomed nearly one hundred community-minded leaders to the fourth annual Gathering of Alberta Co-operatives.

Each year, the Alberta Community and Co-operative Association, a not-for-profit co-op focusing on leadership development and advocacy for the co-operative sector, brings together democratically controlled, member-owned organizations and like-minded partners, to see how they’re building a better Alberta and a better world.

The Gathering of Alberta Co-operatives is a conference, an open forum and a place where Alberta’s member-owned enterprises can share their experiences using a business model that puts people before profit, following seven principles that differentiate them from their competitors. The theme of this year’s Gathering was Leveraging the Power of Member-Ownership.

Some guests of the Gathering come from billion dollar co-operatives, such as Servus Credit Union and The Co-operators who were also major sponsors of the event, making it accessible to start-up organizations and grassroots mobilizers. They’re joined by local and visiting MLAs and county councillors, economic development officers and groups like the Athabasca University and Community Futures Network of Alberta. Co-operatives are found in virtually every industry and almost all of them were represented at the Gathering. From social sectors like housing and healthcare to utility services in water, electricity and natural gas, to everyday grocery, retail and agro products and more.

Two out of three Albertans are a member-owner in at least one co-operative, which means they have a say in how the business is run, and they directly benefit when business is good. In a province that boasts more than 700 co-ops and credit unions, it’s easy to see the influence they have in job creation, contributions to GDP, and general service to the people of Alberta.

The keynote panel on Leveraging the Power of Member-Ownerships was presented by board chairs from Co-operatives and Mututals Canada and UFA Co-operative Limited, alongside Chief Financial Officer of Servus Credit Union and General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for Federated Co-operatives Limited. They talked about how co-operatives provide stability to staff and members during economic downturns, because their business model ensures they remain focused on service and community need, rather than maximizing profits. When co-operatives are profitable, those profits are shared through direct dividends to members, lower costs for services, and in the form of community investment.

Government relations became a hot topic for co-operatives in this provincial and federal election year. When political platforms look to diversify the economy and stimulate growth, co-operatives are the experts in getting things done where private business and public programs can’t justify making the commitment. In Alberta, co-operative solar farms and energy companies are breaking ground and rural co-op healthcare clinics are being explored. The Alberta Community and Co-operative Association has been partnering on many game-changing initiatives that were shared at the Gathering including co-operatives as a means for development and job creation in First Nations communities.

The Gathering of Alberta Co-operatives pushes CEOs, managers, board members and front line staff to put their mission statements under the microscope and get serious about how they’re being of service to their members. The conference reintroduced the idea of board governance as a culture and a way of thinking in a session led by Brett Faribairn of the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan.

Many Canadian co-ops have been recognized as top employers, but even the award winners were tested to talk about challenges when it came to the employee engagement workshop facilitated by Seth Leon and Lacey Chyz of the Alberta Community and Co-operative Association. The workshop embodied many of the co-op principles, including education, information and co-operation among
co-operatives; while the participants businesses are very different in nature, location and size, their shared structure makes it the perfect learning environment for sharing and adapting people-focused practices.

Though the name may suggest the Gathering of Alberta Co-operatives is just for Albertans, the event has attracted guests and speakers from as far away as Oxfordshire, United Kingdom and Madison, Wisconsin, to colleagues from all across Canada in the four years it’s been running.

The first inaugural Gathering of Alberta Co-operatives began in 2012 when the United Nations declared the International Year of Co-operatives for the models ability to socially and economically empower and uplift people around the globe. Each year there is a piece of the conference that highlights co-operatives as a means of sustainable international development, an initiative that many co-ops in Canada support through the Co-operative Development Foundation.

Individual member-owned co-ops in Alberta are a part of a global movement that provides services and meets the needs of regular people. As member-owners, these people have a say in how their business is run and how the profits are distributed. They co-operate with other co-operatives to build better communities and to voice their economic influence and opinions of their members to other democratic institutions and decision makers. At the provincial level, the Alberta Community and Co-operative Association acts as an apex for co-operatives and is a member of the national co-op association, Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada. From there the web grows outward, creating a huge network globally and sectorally, to truly represent the interests of regular people in industry matters and social stewardship.


2015 Gathering Sponsor Logos