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GUEST COLUMN: Co-ops are innovative, resilient and inclusive

Oct. 13 – 19 is National Co-op Week in Canada.
Oct. 13 – 19 is National Co-op Week in Canada. - Contributed

By Ken Kavanagh

Oct. 13 – 19 is National Co-op Week in Canada. During the week, on October 17th, credit unions celebrate International Credit Union Day.

On behalf of the Board and staff of the NL Federation of Co-operatives (NLFC), I want to recognize and salute all the boards, staff and members of co-operatives and credit unions in N.L.

All co-operatives are part of a global movement that now embraces 12 per cent of humanity in some 3 million co-operatives, including the 21 million member-owners in some 8,000 co-operative enterprises here in Canada. According to the study titled Economic Impact of the Co-operative Sector in Canada, co-operatives represent 3.4 per cent of Canada’s GDP and almost 200,000 jobs in communities across the country.

In N.L., we have some 90 co-operatives, including 9 credit unions, that are providing goods and services and contributing to local economies throughout all areas of the province.

While most tend to think of only consumer (grocery store) co-ops, the co-op enterprise model exist in all sectors of the economy from health care co-ops in Saskatchewan to funeral co-ops in Quebec. In our province, some would recognize Fogo Island Co-op (fishery), Growing our Future Childcare Co-op, St. John’s Farmer’s Market Co-op, Terrington Consumer Co-op, Public Service Credit Union, Irish Loop Artisan’s Co-op or, perhaps, Newfoundland Independent Filmmaker’s Co-op (NIFCO).

A co-operative is a unique form of business model where people voluntarily unite in a legally incorporated entity to meet their economic, social and cultural needs through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise. All co-operatives are guided by and practice their values through the internationally-renowned Seven Co-op Principles.

The theme for this year’s Co-op Week is “Interco-operation” which is directly related to the 6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives. This principle calls on all co-operatives to serve their members most effectively and to strengthen the movement by working together through local, national and international structures.

In N.L., that structure would be the NLFC. We are now entering our 70th year of operation as the collective voice of co-operatives and, more recently, credit unions. Our mandate includes promotion, education and support for the development of new co-operatives.

Co-ops are innovative, resilient and inclusive, attributes sorely needed in our province in the years ahead. While they have made a contribution to the socio-economic development of this province and to the sustaining of communities, the need and the potential of the power of co-ops has never been greater than they are today.

And only through “co-operation among co-operatives” will we address that need and realize that potential.

Ken Kavanagh is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Co-operatives. He writes from Bell Island

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