Conference and AGM 2018 Recap
by Hazel Corcoran, CWCF Executive Director
Beginning November 1st, the Conference explored how changes such as growing income inequality, climate change, and automation are affecting the world of work through workshops, networking sessions, and guest speakers. Keynote speakers
, President and CEO of The Co-operators;
, Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - Manitoba Office; and Pablo Benson-Silva, New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives and US FWC Board member drew a large audience for their presentation, which was open to the public. A key element which emerged from this Keynote panel was to not take any coming trends as inevitable, but to apply a lens to these trends around what is best for people - and the role of the (worker) co-op movement in creating this focus and approach.
While Conference sessions keyed in on the theme, there were also workshops on financial management in a worker co-operative, as well as social enterprises, co-operatives in indigenous communities, and more. Conference presenters included long-time co-op developer Russ Christianson; CoopZone President Pascal Billard, SEED Winnipeg Co-director Louise Simbandumwe, and social enterprise leader Marty Donkervoort.
An important element which had been raised by the Strategic Planning Committee and also by one of two "listeners" at this Conference was the need to make more space for, and provide support to people from marginalized communities. It was noted, and heard, that it is critical to both have outreach to people from different communities, and to simultaneously ensure there's support available for them. This is now a fundamental focus area within the CWCF Strategic Plan.
The Conference saw the presentation of this year's Mark Goldblatt Award to Lee Fuge, retiring Board member and founding m
ember-owner of the International Women's Catering Co-op (IWCC) in Victoria.
Lee was recognized for her wisdom, patience, and "ability to offer the most concise yet sensitive ways to tackle the many issues at hand."
With me having spoken to IWCC founding co-member Safia Ibrahim Hassan, attendees heard that Lee's co-members view her "as 'everything', our guide." Lee noted that her work life has
enabled her to work in all types of environments, and by far she has most treasured her work in co-ops.
NEW CWCF STRATEGIC PLAN, 2018-2021
Conference attendees had the opportunity to deliberate on the Federation's new strategic plan. After 10 months of intensive work and consultation, the draft strategic plan was approved unanimously, with great participation and energy and a clear sense of excitement among the delegates.
Broadly speaking, the two main Mission areas of the Federation's new Strategic Plan are: 1) To engage and support the worker co-op members, and 2) To build awareness and scale up worker co-ops, i.e., a worker co-op development focus. It was agreed that CWCF now has enough in its revenues and reserves to meet the necessary goals in the first area, re: engaging / supporting members and will implement them, especially around more frequent contact between CWCF staff/ board and the member co-ops as well as Quebec Regional federations, and increased technical assistance to worker co-op. Re: the second Mission area, scaling up worker co-ops, there are various different focus areas, including: Building as part of / alongside the Solidarity Economy, Business Succession to worker co-ops, and Training worker co-op members.
For most of these elements, current resources are not able to meet the objective, thus additional resources must be sought. Among other things, it is planned that CWCF will seek an additional $5 million in its Tenacity Works Fund, affecting both Mission areas. The new Strategic Plan, as approved by the members, is available
, approximately 3/4ths of the way down the page. There was significant excitement around the strategic priority to "Build solidarity with other economic, social and environmental allies, and create and communicate a long-term socio-economic vision." Within this focus area and otherwise, CWCF seeks to actively engage its members including through more visits and phone calls with members, use of the Loomio Worker Co-op platform for discussion, etc. (To get into the exciting discussion happening on Loomio, you must make a request to Kaye Grant, firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Finally, board members Omar Yaqub, Lee Fuge, and Tommy Allen completed their terms on the board, with Alexandre Banville having had to resign in early 2018 due to working two jobs at his co-op. We thank them all for their contributions to CWCF! The following directors began or continue their terms, as noted:
Reba Plummer, re-elected, and also President as well as the Ontario Director
Eric Tusz-King, (ongoing) Vice-President and Atlantic Director
Ian March (newly elected), Treasurer and BC, Yukon Director
Jessica Provencher, re-elected, Quebec Director
Rick Proven (newly elected), Prairie and NWT Director
Yuill Herbert (ongoing), At-Large Director
Yvonne Chiu, (newly elected), At-Large Director
For more information: Conference workshop and Forum PowerPoints are posted
. CWCF's Annual Report, other AGM material including the
2018 Annual Report
, and CWCF's new Strategic Plan are available
One participant stated, "The combination of the Conference and the AGM provided for significant learning and networking opportunities; the Conference program was hands-on and directed at key management and financial challenges of workers co-ops, and the evening activities and events were excellent as well. ...I now have much stronger knowledge and appreciation for the worker co-op movement and the support provided by the CWCF."
The next AGM & Conference will take place in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia on October 24-26, 2019.
Conference 2018: A Call for Courage
By Chris Nichols, member-owner, Woodshop Worker Co-op, Vancouver
We began our day speaking together about courage. As with the two previous years I had attended, the CWCF conference dove right into it, our words earnest and engaging, our theme featured prominently.
This was Friday; the previous day, I had attended the full-day financial management workshop, where we shared our financial challenges and discussed key performance indicators of the health of our co-ops. Particularly useful were the group discussions, where I could find comparable co-ops and dig into common ways of tracking and evaluating our sales. I left the session with a to-do list as long as my arm, but at least I saw the roadmap to get where I wanted to go.
But back to courage. In the context of the conference theme, "Co-operation in the Changing World of Work," it was clearly at the top of our minds. Thursday night's keynote panel, featuring Rob Wesseling, Molly McCracken and Pablo Benson-Silva, painted a bleak picture of our future, with impending climate catastrophe, increasingly precarious work, and the prevalence of automation efforts that would make workers less relevant. But it wasn't all bad; Pablo shared the work that had been done in New York City to create a network of worker co-ops, many of which were comprised of marginalized peoples facing precarious conditions of employment. Rob had insights on how resiliency could be built into our communities with the right planning and engagement. Molly stressed that these trends were not inevitable, at least not fully. It was up to our society to shape a more democratic, inclusive future, and there was still time.
Clearly, addressing the problems discussed the night before would take courage, and a scale of coordination beyond what our small sector could at this point deliver. In our morning session, most of the discussion with the people in my group surrounded the courage to push beyond the regular course of a business and thwart the possibility of being siloed off from larger efforts. Without exception, the examples of courage that were cited spoke to moments when our co-ops embraced the call to higher values of our sector - inclusivity, social justice, and co-ops helping co-ops, to name a few. There was little sense of "accomplishment", however. Courage was not something to reflect upon but to embrace for the tasks ahead. We talked about how our sector needed to continue to "punch above its weight", to be an ever-louder voice in the building of the solidarity economy.
It was the perfect way to begin our two days together, setting the tone for future sessions on our strategic plan, financing our co-ops, and governance. Our strategic plan was accepted unanimously by the members and we evaluated specific ways to achieve our goals, while acknowledging financial shortfalls that would require external funds. Near the end of the conference there was earnest discussion around diversity, and a noted lack of representation of certain marginalized groups in our space. Courage, I think, also comes with admitting your shortfalls, but it means little without determination to be better in the future. This we all resolved to do.
The conference itself was a time to refocus and re-energize. I left with a plan, and more useful tools to bring to my partners as we continued to build our co-op and grow our sector. Courage would be needed, and I couldn't wait to yet again enter the fray.
Journée Intensive CoopZone
par Pascal Billard, président de CoopZone, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Québec
Coopération dans le monde du travail en mutation
qu'a eu lieu le colloque annuel de CoopZone organisé conjointement avec la Fédération canadienne des coopératives de travail. Au cours de la journée intensive de CoopZone qui a attiré une quinzaine de personnes, j'ai eu l'occasion de présenter un atelier ayant pour thème Les coopératives de nouvelles générations. Peu de participants connaissaient ce concept qui a été initié plus spécifiquement par des producteurs agricoles désirant donner une plus-value à leurs
produits, tout en gardant le contrôle de la mise en marché. Le côté légal d'une telle coopérative a été très bien expliqué par Kristen Wittman de la firme Taylor McCaffrey, ce qui a suscité de nombreuses questions.
La journée s'est poursuivie par une excellente présentation d'Eric Tusz-King sur l'importance du programme de formation des développeurs de coopératives initié par CoopZone. En effet, de nombreux développeurs approchent de la retraite, et il faut continuer à former la relève pour que le mouvement coopératif au Canada persiste.
Les jours suivants ont permis à tous les membres de CoopZone et de la FCCT d'assister à diverses conférences, et surtout de faire du réseautage entre ces deux organisations qui travaillent à faire briller le mouvement coopératif au Canada.
Pascal Billard, President of CoopZone, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec
It was under the theme Co-operation in the Changing World of Work that the annual CoopZone Conference happened which was organized jointly with the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation. During the CoopZone Intensive day which attracted about fifteen people, I had the opportunity to present a workshop on the theme of the New Generation Co-ops. Few participants were aware of this concept, which was specifically initiated by agricultural producers wishing to add value to their products while retaining control over marketing. The legal side of such a cooperative was very well explained by Kristen Wittman of Taylor McCaffrey, which provoked many questions by participants.
The day continued with an excellent presentation by Eric Tusz-King on the importance of the cooperative developer training program developed by CoopZone. Indeed, many co-op developers are approaching retirement, and we must continue to train the next generation so that the cooperative movement in Canada persists.
The following days of the Conference allowed all members of CoopZone and CWCF to attend various workshops, and especially to network between these two organizations, working to raise the profile of and promote the cooperative movement in Canada
Conference 2018: A first-timer's perspective
by Eric Gosselin, Coop Vélocité, St.-Boniface, MB
On the first morning of the conference I arrived just in time for the Russ Christianson workshop. All the front tables were taken by keener participants so I made my way to the second last table at the back and hastily took out my laptop (well, the laptop I "borrowed" from my coop). I looked over and there was Hazel sitting at the same table. She introduced me to the other person at the table: "
, this is Imran from La Siembra." I think I froze. I was star-struck. La Siembra is my wife's favourite chocolate (mine also). She raves about the fact that it tastes even better because it's Fairtrade. I think it tastes better because it's co-op. I didn't know what to say to Imran. Do I say: "I'm a huge fan, can you sign my arm"? Or do I say: "Thank you for leading the way in Fairtrade chocolate"? Oh, sounds so practiced, ughhhh.
It took me all day to scrounge up the courage to strike up a conversation. Imran responded with something like: "Well, La Siembra; it's an office..., but I can't wait to go on the trip to meet farmers that supply the chocolate". Yes, that does sound pretty exciting. In the day-to-day though, Imran gave the impression that La Siembra was just like, you know, doing its normal co-op job. And that's the thing about this conference; everyone is just so dedicated, perseverant and caring that La Siembra is just normal alongside Urbane, Shift, Wood Shop, Sun Certified Builders, and all the others. Everyone in these co-ops is awesome and I'm so glad to have had the chance to hang out with them for a few days. Keep doing your co-op thing. Oh, and my wife says: "Thanks to La Siembra for those fresh chocolate samples. So good!"
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.
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