Innovation in the Co-operative Sector

Innovation in the Co-operative Sector

Co-operative Housing

While some parts of the housing market are experiencing rapidly rising prices, affordable housing for many people remains a challenge. Some commercial builders find it easier to attract capital to pursue the most lucrative opportunities but harder to get behind projects designed to meet the needs of people with modest incomes, or in need of social housing.

This is another area where the co-op model can fill important gaps. By focusing on how to address this unmet need, a co-operative in the housing market
can assemble the necessary financing to increase the amount of affordable housing in communities – something essential to the health of many communities, and key to quality of life.

Clean Technology

The challenge of climate change and emissions reduction is vital to the future of the planet and the renewal of our infrastructure and economy is a necessary part of combating climate change. In many instances, this involves needed investment in clean technologies, including alternative sources of energy such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.

Relying only on traditional business models may slow progress people want when it comes to clean technology in their communities. In some cases, a co-operative approach can unlock local capital and engage a community to improve the sustainability of energy sources, stimulate economic activity, and provide affordable energy for local residents and taxpayers. In Canada and around the world, co-ops are playing a larger and larger role in the kind of innovation that improves our impact on the environment.

Windshare’s Ex Place turbine is the first community-owned wind power project in Ontario, and the first urban-sited project of its kind on the continent. Community power is locally owned, renewable energy generation scaled to a size that can be accommodated in a city environment – a model that is gaining support as an alternative to large-scale developments.

Indigenous Communities

Across Canada, from forestry to fisheries to farming and mining, Indigenous people are playing an increasing role in economic development. Indigenous owned businesses have been growing in number and expanding.

The co-operative approach is a good model for developing enterprises that flourish within Indigenous communities. The values of collaboration, sharing and respect for each other and the land can be central to the business model of an enterprise and ensure that growth is sustainable and community support is strong.

The Kuujjuaq co-operative was the first established in Nunavik, with start-up funds raised through the sale of miniature sculptures which became a symbol of Indigenous handicrafts. Today, relying on retail sales from its store and attached hotel that draws on the hunting and fishing tourism activity, members of the Kuujjuaq take pride and benefit from what their community has to offer.

High Speed Broadband Internet Service

High speed connection to the Internet is vital to social development and economic progress. It’s no longer a nice to have, it’s a “need to have”.

In a country like Canada, urban areas are often very well provided for in terms of high speed Internet connections, but rural and remote communities often face a unique challenge. Many traditional providers have trouble justifying the investment in delivering a great broadband service to rural areas, based on the revenue and profit they can forecast.

A co-op approach can help bridge this gap, creating an economically viable path to ensure that individuals and businesses everywhere can get the connectivity they need. From farmers to tourism operators, students and teachers, high quality Internet service unlocks potential and builds social cohesion.

The Lawrencetown Village Commission set up a co-operative in rural Nova Scotia enabling its residents to install, operate and benefit from broadband services they didn’t previously have access to. The community-led initiative will ensure self-sustained Internet services owned by the subscribers.

Agri-food & Trade Opportunities

The challenge of feeding the world is growing and Canada has unique potential to help.

Since even before Canada became a country, our people were developing skills at harnessing resources and trading with the world – and today we are one of the world’s biggest exporters of food products. Co-operative enterprises have been at the forefront of Canada’s success, creating solutions for farmers and rural communities that rival some of the largest enterprises in the world. From grain to dairy to poultry and beef, local and national Canadian co-ops are ready to embrace the opportunities presented by new trade agreements with more markets – including the chance to supply more Canadian food to consumers in China.

A co-operative partnership between IFFCO Canada, La Co-op fédérée, Investissement Québec and Pacific Gateway Energy is working to set up Quebec’s first fertilizer production plant. The operation will be model for industry stakeholders and stimulate the province’s economy by promoting local suppliers and businesses over the current reliance on imported fertilizers – meaning more local jobs, efficient farming, and exporting more Canadian agri-products.