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Vancouver Needs a Freelancer’s Co-op – Here’s How and Why

By | Cooperatives Work, Social Enterprise, Social Impact, Strategy and Advice | 4 Comments

There’s something that many people in Vancouver know and experience daily: the life of a freelancer or a consultant. Our economy, while vibrant, is pushing people into nontraditional working relationships: we’re no longer getting full-time jobs that allow for advancement within a company; instead, we’re getting short-term contracts that are precarious, coupled with an environment that’s reluctant to hire permanent employees.

This has some interesting outcomes: first, there’s an increasing crowd of freelancers and consultants in Vancouver. Some really cool outcomes come from this: people are unafraid to work together in unique ways, and organizations get the best talent they can, albeit on a reduced commitment timeframe. However, there’s a significant downside: the life of a consultant or freelancer isn’t stable, and it lacks more than just stability – freelance jobs rarely have extended health benefits, put most of the administration work (invoicing, accounting, legal review) onto the hands of the freelancer or consultant. That part isn’t fun.

But there’s a way we can make it easier – if we build up a Freelancer and Consultant’s Co-op. The co-op could handle things that we all need, as freelancers and consultants: extended health benefits, accounting, legal review, infrastructure for billing, and more. The co-op could partner with a coworking space so that freelancers has a place to call home, and the co-op could provide services to all those workers, too.

The idea is simple: there’s services we all need as freelancers and consultants. We can provide them by working together in a cooperative fashion. Read More

How do we build a truly sharing economy and not a sharecropping one?

By | Cooperatives Work, Impact Investing, Sharing Economy, Social Enterprise, Social Impact, Strategy and Advice | No Comments

I’ve written before about the sharing economy in a bunch of different places. I think it’s a problematic term, one that perhaps even needs to go away. The challenge with that, of course, is that it has a certain amount of stickiness – people are interested in the idea of sharing instead of individually consuming, and working together instead of working against each other.

One side of this equation is hope in a collaborative economy that actually makes a difference in the world; the other side is an entrenchment of exploitation. In my mind, the sharing economy is in a liminal space at the moment: it can grow the good, or as Rebeca Solnit put it so well, it could continue to be the “sharecropping economy,” because that’s where it is at the moment.

So how do we get there? Read More

5 Picks for Social Impact Holiday Gifts

By | Cooperatives Work, Social Enterprise, Social Impact | No Comments

Have a very merry social impact holiday5 PICKS FOR

It’s not too late for holiday shopping. By our count, there are still at least three evenings (not including the one on which this was published) to get out there and buy your loved ones gifts. But as you dash to the bus stop in the hopes of getting to the mall in time, we here at the Incipe Cooperative would love to encourage you to pick your holiday gifts so that they make a social impact.

After all, what better way to show your loved ones how much you love them than with products that are fairly sourced, fairly traded, and improve the life of people involved in bringing them to your family’s stockings, Christmas tree, or Festivus pole?

In the interests, though, of making your last-minute dash to the mall easier, we present to you our 5 picks for social impact holiday gifts.

Read More

Want innovative, green jobs? Try co-ops

By | Cooperatives Work, Social Enterprise, Social Impact | No Comments

One of our members, Kevin Harding, is also a Research Associate with the BC Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Recently, he posted a publication on the CCPA’s PolicyNote blog. Here’s an excerpt – click here to read more:

In the coming months and years, the new federal government will make important decisions about jobs: how we create them, protect them and make them more sustainable.

Many Canadians believe there’s a trade-off to be made between employment and environmental sustainability. But that doesn’t have to be the case — particularly if we look at cooperatives as a source of jobs.

You might be familiar with co-ops already — you probably know of housing co-ops, or you might be one of the more than a million BC residents who are members of a credit union. But you might not be familiar with the potential that co-ops can have in terms of employment — especially employment with environmental sustainability in mind.

Here’s why I think that the new federal government ought to consider co-ops:

read more at Policy Note

9 Problems to Fix in the Co-op Sector

By | Cooperatives Work | No Comments
9 Problems to Fix in the Co-op Sector

Wire Cutters

I’ve been in the co-op sector in an intense way for 3.5 years, while also having been a member of various co-ops for 19-27 years [Vancity and MEC, respectively] and I have a membership relationship with CCEC, I stay at Best Western [also a co-op] and shop at Home Hardware [also a co-op] whenever I can.

But in my time being a member of various co-ops and working for them as a consultant, I’ve noticed a few things about the co-op sector that need some work. And fast!

And after you read this to-do list, read this piece for further inspiration that complements my ideas here, then kick back and watch the 9 minute short film [see the picture above] called Wire Cutters that explores the sanity of cooperation and synergy, and the folly of greed, alienation and competition in a perceived zero-sum context.

  1. Co-ops and co-op members need to have higher expectations of professional behaviour from other co-operators. This is a movement where we have an obligation to create amazing workspaces filled with rich community, deep interdependence, synergy, collaboration, open communication and positive-sum thinking. It’s often not. It’s often the realm of people who exploit and demean others just like we know soulless corporations do. Stop tolerating this! Demand better!
  2. We need to call out people in co-ops, big and small, old and new, who do business as if it didn’t matter that they were in a co-op. The movement matters. The principles matter. The community and people matter. It ought to look, feel and operate differently from the soulless corporations we are trying to supplant.
  3. We need to–gracefully–challenge the privilege of people in power who have demographic advantages. Often these are older people, white people, male people who don’t understand intersectionality, justice, oppression, entitlement or inclusion. And of course, not all __________ don’t ignorantly wield privilege, but many do. We need to stop giving privilege a pass and engage with it. Otherwise there is no hope for equality and democracy.
  4. We need to spend far more energy and regard for principle 6, not like it’s an afterthought luxury if the core business is doing well: it IS the core business. It needs to be built into the fabric of everything we do.
  5. Like #4, We need to fix the attitude [is it complacency?] of co-operators having little regard for the necessity of improving member/stakeholder engagement to build the movement and collaborate, instead of competition in a zero-sum context. Without better engagement, democracy and movement building, we may as well all be corporations.
  6. We need to do a better job of nurturing new, small, young co-ops. Even if they look verrrrrry different from what we’re used to. The new breed/style of co-ops are not amateur, they do not lack credibility or legitimacy, and they are paying their dues every day. They also happen to be the future of the movement in many ways. Instead of being patronizing and condescending to them, we should be learning from their business models and posture. They have many answers to questions many of the rest of us aren’t even asking yet.
  7. Some in the co-op movement need to stop putting young people at the organizational kiddies table with colouring books and make-work projects while the grown ups do the real business. Young people who love co-ops for ideological reasons are just as credible as the future of the movement as anyone in established co-ops. Respect and dignity are two-way streets. And they need to be earned and given.
  8. Some co-ops need to do a better job of advertising their co-op advantage to people who would choose them over corporations if they only knew they were co-ops. Yes, I’m talking to virtually all credit unions, as well as Best Western and Home Hardware. 🙂
  9. Some progressives in the co-op movement recognize the need to attract millennials to the movement. But that’s just step one. They won’t succeed if they don’t authentically engage with them, expand opportunities for democracy in each co-op and in each co-op sector, and earn the trust, legitimacy and credibility required for millennials [and others!] to join and commit.

I hope you also noticed all the times certain words showed up.

That’s intentional. 🙂

All these points orbit all of my work and discussions with people in co-ops. This sector is massively under-performing, particularly in post-2008 North America. This is a simple prescription for making our sector vibrant, resilient and inspirational to all!

More than the sum of our parts: solidarity cooperatives

By | Cooperatives Work, Social Enterprise, Social Impact | No Comments
Image courtesy Derek Keats CC-BY

Image courtesy Derek Keats CC-BY

Building something powerful

Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken you through our cooperative taxonomy – an exploration of the many magical forms that cooperatives can take. We’ve done this because we know that not everyone has had a chance to become acquainted with all of the many different forms of cooperatives. So, we’ve gone over worker cooperatives, producer cooperatives, and consumer cooperatives.

But what we haven’t done is let you in on a little secret – there’s a way to build a cooperative that’s more than the sum of its parts, and one that’s super awesome in what it does. So, today, let’s talk about solidarity cooperatives, or, as some people call them, multi-stakeholder cooperatives. Away we go! Read More

The Power of Together: Consumer Cooperatives

By | Cooperative Taxonomy, Cooperatives Work, Social Enterprise | No Comments
Photo courtesy the USDA

Photo courtesy the USDA

The Power of Together

There’s every chance that you’re a member of one of the most ubiquitous forms of cooperatives and don’t even know it. That’s because consumer cooperatives are everywhere – and their cooperative nature is sometimes their best-kept secret.

Here’s a test: are you a member of a credit union? Are you a member of MEC in Canada, or REI in the United States? Do you live in a housing cooperative?

Each of those kinds of cooperatives are consumer cooperatives – and they all build on what I’ll call the power of together. In other words – they build on the power of community. There’s something really powerful about building an organization on a cooperative basis, and just like I’ve so far explored the cooperative form in general, and worker co-ops and producer co-ops in detail, below, I’ll explore consumer cooperatives. Read More

Something cool is cooking: a Vancouver Co-working Cooperative

By | Cooperatives Work, Social Enterprise, Social Impact | No Comments

Image courtesy Jelly, in San DiegoA Vancouver co-working cooperative?

There’s something cool cooking in a lot of co-working spaces across the country right now. And we’d like to explore the opportunity of building a co-working cooperative in Vancouver – a space that is not only conducive to being an affordable place to work, but one that’s intentionally created on cooperative principles.

Does this have you interested? Then check out our page about this idea, and RSVP to our meeting on March 31st in East Vancouver. And read on – to learn a little bit more. Read More

Making, together: producer cooperatives

By | Cooperatives Work | No Comments

The power of making, together

In the history of cooperatives, agriculture plays a really significant role: in many cases, cooperatives movements have been literally grown through agriculture. There are co-ops in grain, dairy, animals, farm supplies, food, and so much more.

wheat fieldBut why are co-ops so easy to find in the agricultural sector? Easy answer: the power of making, together. Producers cooperatives have created resilience, strength, and incredible capacity in the agricultural sector – and that power of making, together, is something that can, and has, transcended the agricultural sector to make an impact all across the economy.

The idea behind a producer cooperative is one that is fundamentally simple yet powerful. And here, in this continuation of my Cooperative Taxonomy series of posts, I’ll explore with you what makes producer cooperatives different from other cooperatives, and what about that difference gives them their powerful and resilient core – and their capacity to make a massive difference in the lives of their members and their communities. You can also quickly compare producer cooperatives to my piece on worker cooperatives – and  you’ll be in a good place to know why worker cooperatives work, and why making, together, is so powerful.

Ready? Onwards! Read More

We Can Solve Vancouver’s Housing Crisis with Cooperatives

By | Cooperatives Work, Social Impact | No Comments

Crossroads Housing Co-opNo house, no home? Cooperate!

Vancouver has a housing crisis. And cooperatives can solve it. Here’s how.

With news that the average price for a single-family standalone house in Vancouver is now around $1.4 million dollars, the housing crisis in Vancouver is clear: people simply cannot afford to own a home in the city. This is pushing people with lower incomes further and further from the city and their jobs, creating urban sprawl, congestion, and environmental harm. It’s also creating a class of citizens who can never earn enough to afford to purchase a house. It’s a pretty disheartening situation.

And every disheartening situation leads us to cast about trying to find someone to blame – an increasing trend recently has been to blame “Chinese investors” despite mixed data that doesn’t agree – but this drive to find blame is distracting. It’s distracting us from the real problem, and from finding real solutions.

And those solutions can be found in housing cooperatives. I’ll explain how below – but first, let’s explore that problem a little more. Then we’ll talk about how co-ops can solve them. Read More