The following post is republished with permission from the Parkdale People's Economy website. We hope the model of co-op cred will be viewed by other co-ops and their community partners as a powerful and replicable neighbourhood-based economic development tool!
The Co-op Cred program is GROWING
In 2013, we launched the successful pilot project of the Co-op Cred program with PARC Ambassadors Team. This year, we have been working toward the expansion and scale-up of the Co-op Cred program. In so doing, we aim to assess the viability of the Co-op Cred Program as a neighbourhood-based economic development tool. This expansion phase has continued to be supported by Metcalf Foundation and Echo Foundation with an additional support from the Cooperators.
The Co-op Cred program is an innovative partnership program incubated by West End Food Co-op and PARC. Greenest City has been a crucial partner since its inception. From this year, Parkdale Community Health Centre joined the program to strengthen their link with the West End Food Co-op and access to healthy and local food.
In the 2014 expansion year, PARC’s Co-op Cred program has engaged over 20 new participants in a wide range of work placement opportunities at the West End Food Co-op and Greenest City. Seven PARC Ambassadors have continued their participation and leadership. It should be noted that they have played a significant role in supporting new participants as mentors, and peer supporters.
For example, 10 new participants along with 5 Ambassadors have done placements with West End Food Co-op, supporting its kitchen production, floor, and stocking, and their farmers’ market.
Also, 8 new participants along with 2 Ambassadors have worked at the Greenest City site to support urban agriculture activities. Their work has been featured in the Toronto Star article!
In addition, we have developed a relationship with one of the boarding homes in Parkdale via Habitat Services. We have teamed up with Greenest City and one member from the boarding home to repurpose the backyard into a food growing space. Parkdale Community Health Centre has also started its own Co-op Cred Program by redesigning their Diabetes Management program. So far, 18 participants have earned co-op credits. Similarly, three PARC Edmond Place supportive housing tenants have also joined the Co-op Cred program by redesigning their independent food program to be incorporated into the Co-op Cred program. We have also started Co-op Cred program placements at the PARC drop-in meal program.
These are great examples of how we are building intentional networks and active interdependence with existing community assets in the Parkdale neighbourhood. And this opens up possibilities for further growth and sustainability.
Furthermore, this year’s Ride For Real Food Campaign – a fundraising event dedicated for the Co-op Cred program – has broken the record! The campaign achieved over $37,000, about 30% increase from the last year’s campaign! A number of Ambassadors and participants have supported the campaign and two participants participated in the ride.
In short, our expansion phase has been making remarkable progress! The Co-op Cred program has been featured in the Toronto Vital Sign 2014 report as one of the effective programs addressing the growing wealth gap.
We have started program evaluation processes to document and reflect on lessons and challenges that have emerged from this expansion phase, ones that will inform our next steps.