5 Takeaways from BC’s Cooperate Now Bootcamp
Written by Silviu Toderita, Fleet Technician
During an unusually sunny weekend in mid-November, I had the privilege of attending the Cooperate Now Bootcamp, put on by the BC Co-Op Association and Vancity Credit Union. Cooperate Now is an interactive business skills bootcamp for entrepreneurs or community members interested in building a co-op enterprise.
Apart from being an employee of Modo, I’ve also been a long-time member of Modo and many other local co-ops and was interested in what it would take to build my own co-operative organization. I’m a strong believer in the co-op model and came away with an ever deeper appreciation for the value that co-ops add to our local communities.
Here are my 5 key takeaways from Cooperate Now:
#1 Co-ops thrive when they serve a strong need in their community
The first co-operative organization was the Rochdale Society, formed in 1844 in Lancashire, England. It was created due to a dire need for affordable, quality groceries in a community that had no access to such goods. From that first co-op in 1844, the same pattern emerged: Co-ops thrive when there is a need in their community that’s not being served by other types of organizations. For example, credit unions grant credit to those that can’t always obtain it from banks, and grocery co-ops provide quality organic and local foods at lower prices than supermarket chains.
#2 Co-ops come in all shapes and sizes
As a consumer co-op, Modo’s membership is made up of the people who use Modo. Consumer co-ops are probably the most common, but they’re not the only type of co-op around. Multiple people who want to work together can create a worker’s co-op, where the employees are the members. Individuals or companies that produce similar products can form a producer’s co-op, where the individual producers of goods are the members and share a platform for selling their goods. And if you want to get creative, multi-stakeholder co-ops can involve a mix of different types of members.
#3 Starting a co-op can be challenging, but an incredible amount of support is available
Nobody said starting an organization from scratch is easy. Co-operatives in BC have to incorporate with the provincial government, which requires documentation of the organization’s constitution and bylaws. But, there are many resources available from local organizations. The BC Co-op Association offers consultations, online resources, and training such as the Co-Operate Now Bootcamp. Vancity offers loans and grants to qualifying organizations.
#4 A co-operative organization can be a great way to pool resources
Consumer, worker, and producer co-ops are all made up of a group of people that understand that they are stronger together than individually. If you have an idea for a business that seems daunting to start on your own or with another person, a co-op is a great way of bringing together a group of people with the same goal. It only takes 3 people to start a co-op in BC!
#5 Co-operatives keep value in their communities
Co-ops are owned by their members. That means that members effectively run co-operative organizations, through electing the board of directors and voting on special resolutions. Any profit that a co-op generates has to go back into the organization, to its members, or into community initiatives. Co-ops not only generate value for their members in the services they provide, but also by keeping money in the local economy.
Do you have an interest in building a co-operative enterprise? Check out the Co-Operate Now Bootcamp. It runs twice a year, and takes place over 4 days.