by Mirna Rofaeil and Kulvinder Pal
On Saturday, October 27th, different kinds of co-ops in Toronto gathered in a meeting room at the Marriott hotel for what was called “The Toronto Co-op Roundtable Meeting.” At that meeting each one of these co-ops talked about the difficulties they face when trying to create an “alternative” business model. While some people brought their problems to the table, some others tried helping them.
Some of the issues discussed included legal, marketing, member engagement and financial. The meeting also allowed members of different Cooperatives to connect with one another. Members included Karma, Ontario Natural Food Co-operative (ONFC), Housing Co-ops, Greater Toronto Area Agriculture and Investigative & Forensic Services (Accounting, Consulting, and Tax). They started the meeting with a small group activity showing the differences between private businesses and co-operatives. Specifically it showed the fact that co-operatives are democratic; each member has a vote, while in the other business models it is not the same! Pamphlets and booklets on How Co-ops Work and the number of co-ops in Ontario were also offered. They also mentioned the “Co-operative Management Certificate” Program offered at Schulich, if anyone was interested in that.
Here are some of the themes that came up at the meeting:
- Demographic changes: How can we respond to that?
- Member engagement: How can we make sure that all members are doing their best for the benefit of the co-op?
- The 7 co-op principles: How are co-ops following those principles?
- Learning issues: What do we need to do in order to educate staff and members more about their co-op? How do we make them aware of what other co-ops do?
Investigative & Forensic Services offered its financial service to other Co-operatives. One suggestion was that co-ops needed to continue networking with one another so that there is more integration. This promotes Co-ops to buy and sell to one another, which will allow them to grow. This meeting allowed different co-ops to connect and offer services to each other.
For more information and to get involved in future Toronto Co-op happenings, please contact Paul Danyluk at pdanyluk (at ) gmail (dot ) com.
Mirna Rofaeil and Kulvinder Pal are fourth-year York University students working with the Local Organic Food Co-ops Network as part of a Social Economy Practicum seminar course which matches students to a social economy organization within the GTA for the duration of the academic year.