Volume 9 Issue 5
December 2017
Conference 2017 Review
Conference 2017 

In This Issue
Conference 2017, by Kaye Grant, CWCF Communications and Member Services Manager
The movement for workplace democracy has always had a radical, transformative vision. These radical roots also call us to new radical routes, i.e., what is our way forward as a movement of solidarity economics based on ownership and control instead of capital?   The world needs workplace democracy now more than ever; it needs people and planet before profits.  At our 2017 Conference, CWCF members and allies started to help map out these radical routes, to build this new and better world. 

On November 2017 we gathered to map out the radical routes of Worker Co-operation.  We had lots to discuss and plan. Over 60 members and friends merged in Ottawa-Gatineau to celebrate our radical roots and, more importantly, to look to the future to see how Worker Co-operatives could continue to transform workplaces and eventually the Canadian economy. 
In a unique approach this year, day one of the Conference was comprised of two different intensive sessions: one focused for worker co-operatives on financial management and human resources, and the other for co-op developers. These sessions were both well received.  See other articles, by Jeff Pastorius and Kiran Pal-Pross respectively, to read more about these two intensive sessions.
On day two we started with the conference welcome and then board members Eric Tusz-King and Jessica Provencher got us moving around and meeting each other.  Using a unique set of co-op principle buttons, we were soon looking for others to share about co-op education and other co-operative-related topics.  Participants were eagerly sharing and networking.  I'm always amazed, even after working with CWCF for the past four years, how much this community feels like family.  The worker co-op community really does live up to the principle of co-operation among co-ops. 
Our keynote speaker Senator Lucie Moncion ' s[1] presentation demonstrated her support for our sector.  It was great to feel that support.  Senator Moncion stressed the co-operative values that are very apparent in smaller co-operatives and expressed the need to have government hear more from smaller co-ops and co-ops in development, not only the larger, established ones.  In this time of growing racial and other intolerance with an increasingly divided society, she stressed that Canada needs more focus on collective well-being -- and that this is exemplified by the co-operative movement.   Not only does she believe that the federal Government needs to hear more from us, she also offered to be of service in this regard.
Breakout workshops were next up. The Government Relations Workshop, facilitated by Alain Roy, CWCF Government Affairs Advisor, featured CMC's Government Relations Director Eileen Barak, and Hazel for CWCF.  It both updated participants on lobby priorities and progress by CMC and CWCF, and provided an opportunity for discussion and guidance by members in attendance.  I attended the workshop facilitated by Russ Christianson on Learning from Co-op Failures to Lead to Success.  Presenters in this session shared their co-op failures and how they moved past this failure towards success.  What a great way to learn from each other.  Where else would you find such sharing?  
After that, we got into the theme of the Conference. I was really excited to hear from our partners at the USFWC.  Mo Manklang, USFWC Communications Manager from Philadelphia didn't disappoint.  Her enthusiasm and excitement were catching.  There are great things happening in the worker co-op sector in the US, notably around collaboration within and growth in immigrant and racialized communities. We also heard from Omar Yaqub (Alif Partners, Edmonton) and Ben Prunty (Vice President, CoopZone from Montreal) who spoke about their vision for the worker co-op routes from here.
We found out that our worker co-op members La Siembra and Brierwood (among others) really know how to party.  They hosted our mix-and-mingle party on Friday night.  What a 
Alain Bridault with the Mark Golblatt Award
great evening!  The London Brewery Co-op provided beer, Colin MacDougall and Murray Jowett entertaine d us, and we also sang the Ballad of CWCF led by Colin on his guitar with Peter Hough and
Hazel the lead singers.  I never knew we had a Ballad.  This was (and is still being) written by Greg O'Neill, who continues to add verses. Everyone was truly engaged.  So now I realize that if you add good food, beer, and song, our worker co-op me mbers get right into it.  And talk about networking: everyone did lots of that.  The Awards, presented to La Siembra and to Alain Bridault, were very moving. The new verse of the CWCF Ballad features Alain, starting off " With Alain Bridault, le président, Québec was at the table!..."
Guy Rouleau, our interpreter, was drawn right into the mix.  He was always ready to interpret when needed, and he really understands us!

Kelly Storie accepts Award on behalf of La Siembra
On Saturday morning, we  got right into fut ure planning with a workshop on our strategic plan led by our Board President, Reba.  See the article by Sally Miller on this.  What a great group of innovative people we had.  A follow-up from our strategic planning discussion at the board is the announcement for an RFP for an innovative strategic planning process which was subsequently sent out on November 22.  This will be an exciting year as CWCF shakes up its direction and looks for new sustainable directions.
We also welcomed a new board member: Alexandre Banville with Belevedere Communications in Montreal, who was elected as Director-at-Large during our board elections. Eric Tusz-King was acclaimed as Atlantic Director for another term.
I attended the Open Space forum on Saturday afternoon.  This was a more relaxing time and a great opportunity to get to know more about the organizational structures of two of our members, Urban Eatin' and Multicultural Health Brokers; while others were having "free consulting with a developer".
This note came from Kiran Pal-Pross regarding the session on Recruiting and Orientation for New Members:
"The local CDR provided an overview of their co-op and services, followed by an interactive discussion between Isabel and Mathieu from RÉSEAU COOP and members of worker co-ops in attendance from varied fields:  web development, construction, app development, food, and services. A lively discussion of member recruitment, interviewing and on-boarding ensued, with examples provided by the workshop participants, while RÉSEAU COOP provided examples from some of their members. At the end, Isabel and Mathieu reviewed some best practices and handed out materials that have been useful for their co-op and members."
En français: « La CDR locale a donné un aperçu de leur coopérative et de leurs services, suivi d'une discussion interactive entre Isabel et Mathieu de RÉSEAU COOP et des membres des coopératives de travail présents, de divers champs : du  développement Web, de la construction, du développement d'applications, de la nourriture et des services. Une discussion animée sur le recrutement des membres, les entrevues et l'intégration a suivi, avec des exemples fournis par les participants à l'atelier tandis que RÉSEAU COOP a fourni des exemples de certains de leurs membres. À la fin, Isabel et Mathieu ont passé en revue quelques pratiques exemplaires et distribué des documents qui ont été utiles à leur coopérative et à leurs membres. »
I was sorry to see the end approach when I knew that we would soon be saying goodbye as we all parted ways to head home.  I hope our members who attended had a chance to share their learnings and experience with others in their co-op and that next year even more members might be able to join us.  And speaking of next year - I'm really excited that it will take place in Winnipeg in 2018.  I think our Winnipeg members have big shoes to fill after such a great hosting experience in Ottawa-Gatineau.  But I'm sure they are up for it.
NOTE: to read the available presentations from this year's Conference, including the Financial Management Intensive session, see this link.   
To read the AGM reports including the 2017 Annual Report and the 3-year Accountability Report, see this link.   

[1] Unfortunately, Senator Murray Sinclair was unable to co-present and sent his regrets.  

Worker Co-op Management Intensive by Jeff Pastorius, London Brewery Worker Co-op
Russ Christianson: Financial Management
"Budgets are the single most important thing we should do in our business."
"Make capital work for us - we must not work for capital."
The WC Management Intensive session of the Conference was incredibly valuable. This session spoke to both early stage development and mature co-operatives. Early stage co-operatives often overlook financial management - additionally, training in financial management is often underdeveloped.  Mature co-operatives also have a tendency to fall back on one or two people to take on the bulk of financial understanding and management. This  may lead to serious difficulty when those individuals are no longer involved in the organization. It is critical to recognize ongoing financial education within the co-operative as a high priority.  By undergoing more rigorous financial management, co-operatives have greater longevity and stability, especially under difficult financial circumstances.  
I know that our Co-op in London, while at various stages of development, could use more emphasis and training in this area.  Resources and time permitting, it seems relevant and integral to include more intensive financial management training at the CWCF conferences in the future.
Isabel Faubert Mailloux and Mathieu Dionne, RESEAU COOP: Human Resources

At times, worker co-operatives will fall victim to business inertia. That is, the day-to-day tasks of running a business 
can erode the time and resources necessary to operate and manage a healthy, well-balanced workplace. Healthy human resource development can be one of those areas which all businesses lack in their operations.  From start-ups to mature co-operatives, human r esource development - policies, procedures, and clear delineation of business structure and responsibilities, has the ability to take a secondary role inside the organization. Mathieu and Isabel helped our group to examine the importance of this arena.  Focusing on the structure of our organizations cast a light on our operations.  Through the use of visual mapping, clarity of how an organization operates and positions of responsibility and authority were found - this process served as a diagnostic approach to identifying potential problematic areas in the organization. 
All co-operatives, large or small, start-up or mature, should undergo this type of analysis on a regular basis. 

CoopZone Developer Intensive Day, by Kiran Pal-Pross, CoopZone Member 
I know I'm in the right place when the butterflies in my stomach are feeding off of my heart palpitations. Only minutes into the start of the CoopZone Developer Intensive on Thursday, concepts like catalyzing an economic revolution and increasing the social innovation ecosystem were being pitched around the room.

CoopZone is fired up. Eight years ago it emerged as a resource provider and networker of developers under the wing of the CWCF. It inducts new developers via a Developer Training program that is one of a kind in Canada, balancing academics and experience and pairing students with mentors - some of the best in the country - to ensure their success. This year the Board is dedicated to growth and has moved to make CoopZone a more distinct entity, starting with a new strategic plan.   
It's not all sunshine and lollipops yet - there's still work to be done in gleaning the strategic plan, improving marketing efforts, translating resources, and generating development opportunities. The way forward is through innovation, communication, entrepreneurship, and humour, and we were presented with ample examples of successful results of that mix. The CoopZone developers have had a hand in building new co-ops like Concordia University's Hive Café Solidarity Co-operative, where students have democratized their food system and made it socially, economically, and environmentally regenerative. Then there's Quebec's CUMA and CUMO agricultural models that share machinery and employees and their care, and the developers are starting to apply these models in non-agricultural contexts, too. And there's the just-about-to-open Disability Service Workers Co-operative in Ottawa, which bands together disability service workers to provide more consistent and effective home care to their clients and ensures fair wages and benefits for their members.
On a national scale, Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada is ensuring that developers be assigned to projects funded by their programs, such as the Canadian Co-op Investment Fund and the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Co-operative Development Program, and The Co-operators is providing benefits via their Co-op Guard program. It's an exciting time to be a developer in Canada.

Co-ops are social innovators. Business un-usual. Accept nothing less.

Goods, Gold and Galvanizing: Ideas for CWCF's Future, By Sally Miller, Fourth Pig Worker Co-op
Ideas flew out of the box at the recent Canadian Worker Co-op Federation Conference as members planned for CWCF's future. The group of about sixty worker co-operators from across Canada had ideas in four categories with provocative sub-titles: fund-raising (Gold Mine); member engagement (All Hands on Deck); partnerships (Likely and Unlikely Allies); and big ideas (Radical Ambitions). Some were discarded quickly (the Gold Mine group decided robbing a bank was not the way to go), others might be considered long term but other ideas showed up in several categories, garnering some consensus.
Not surprisingly for a group of creative entrepreneurs, they offered a number of recommendations for services that could be provided through the Federation: pension plans; bookkeeping services; an online market for products from the worker co-op members; member-to-member business networks and supply chain development; a labour pool to cover staff disruptions; and a centralized marketing service for branding and logo development for the members. They were also looking to entice new communities into the movement through outreach (to newcomer groups, and conventional banks, chambers of commerce and businesses) and networking (caucuses for youth, people of colour).
Then the member engagement group came up with the post-capitalist art project and story-teller ideas showing creative attention to how to get the word out, along with more standard regional conferences, online meetings and webinars. Getting the word out beyond the co-op movement was a top priority--reaching career counselors, political parties, governments, schools, etc.
Succession has been a common theme for the last few years for new co-op development, but now members suggest legacy and estate planning support as well, reaching people through funeral co-ops and other venues. A different tactic brought forward was to make CWCF an investment entity (connecting to the pension as a service idea), drawing perhaps on the notions of Islamic lending with no interest and a community focus. The lively discussion provided a chance for members to give their input to their Federation and to get to know each other better. Even if we don't rob a bank together, Canadian worker co-ops now have the beginning of strategic planning for the future.

Feedback from Conference Participants 

Approximately 38% of people that attended our conference provided feedback via the conference evaluation.  The main reason people attended our conference was to meet and find out about other co-ops, secondly because of the location, and thirdly because of the workshop topics.
"It was wonderful to be able to reconnect with old friends , be energized with so many interesting panel discussions while enjoying all the culture offerings of our National Capital."
"Entretenir des liens avec le reste du mouvement de coop de travail canadien"
The Friday night Mix and Mingle Party with the Awards Presentation was very highly rated in the evaluation.  Here are some comments:
"Wonderful atmosphere ...most certainly a successful evening.  Great to acknowledge the contribution that individuals make to the Co-op cause.  A big thank-you must go out to the host group...La Siembra for making the evening so lovely."
"Excellente soirée, bonne occasion de réseautage, et bonne bière de London!!!"
"It was great to see La Siembra's new warehouse, listen to live music, enjoy food, and the awards"
The Intensive sessions both received high satisfaction ratings indicating that this format and content met the expectations/needs of people who attended.
Some other feedback that was provided:
  • More time and focus for the (regional) Caucus sessions as these are important ways to connect
  • More time for AGM reports; we only get to hear this once.  (Note: the AGM reports and other materials are also available in writing by clicking this link.) 
  • More organized transportation/parking instructions to offsite workshops
  • Some expressed disappointment that Senator Murray Sinclair was unable to attend, but participants greatly appreciated the support and inspiration provided by Senator Lucie Moncion 
  • Upfront clarity from moderator before panel presentations
  • Break to allow some local tourism
  • Great networking time
"Overall, the conference was very enjoyable, including the unstructured time to network.  Thanks!"
"Overall, well done this year. Liked the focus on workshops, as this is the most important part of conferences for me. Continued focus on sharing learnings, effective strategies to support running our co-ops, and clarifying ways to support growth of the sector."
"J'adore l'ambiance que crée les coop de travail et l'équipe de la FCCT."
"Comme nous le disons souvent, le congrès de la FCCT est de loin l'événement le plus pertinent pour aller chercher de l'info sur la coopération du travail et rencontrer des coopérateurs.   Simple, sympathique et concret."

EN version: 
"I love the ambiance created by worker co-ops and the CWCF team."
"As we often say, the CWCF Conference is by far the most pertinent event to find information on worker co-operation and to meet co-operators.  Simple, welcoming, and concrete."

2017 sponsorship list

The Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation (CWCF) is a national, bilingual grassroots membership organization of and for worker co-operatives, related types of co-operatives (multi-stakeholder co-ops and worker-shareholder co-ops), and organizations that support the growth and development of worker cooperatives.  CWCF's e-newsletter is available free of charge to anyone with an e-mail address and an interest in worker co-operative developments in Canada.
Please send any comments and suggestions to: 
Kaye Grant 
Editor of CWCF Newsletter 
(204) 257-1198