Co-operatives First - Supports Business Development

Pelican Narrows Meeting Co-ops First

Co-operatives First representatives are available to meet with those considering the co-op model such as at this community engagement event in Pelican Narrows, Sask.

Western Canadian organization promotes and supports co-op business development

By Sam Laskaris
Contributing Writer

As its name suggests, Co-operatives First continues to be a rather co-operative organization.

The Saskatoon-based organization, now in its third year of existence, provides information for all those who are considering the co-op model.

“A large part of our mandate is education and support,” said Dan Matthews, who is Co-operatives First’s manager of strategy and communications.

The organization’s priority is to increase economic development through promoting and supporting co-op business development in Indigenous communities and rural areas across the country’s four western provinces; British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

But Co-operatives First’s online resources and services are available to those in other parts of the country.

Co-operatives First is funded by the Co-operative Retailing System and Federated Co-operatives Limited.

Co-operatives First works in partnership with various businesses and organizations that are starting up. While officials from these businesses and groups generally have a good grasp of how things work, Co-operatives First representatives are available to provide guidance and various resource tools to assist with any start-up decisions.

Co-operatives First can also provide a relationship manager to focus solely on a group or business that explores the co-op model. After all, starting up a co-op can be an arduous challenge with some confusing processes, which can obviously be made easier with the assistance of those in the know.

Co-operatives First employees are also available to assist with feasibility studies and business plans.

“We are really hoping to help leverage economic developers and business consultants,” Matthews said.

Co-operatives First has also offered a number of courses and workshops available to all in the past.

This includes a Good Governance Matters course.

Workshops offered include the Exploring Opportunity one, which allows community leaders and builders a chance to establish goals and set some clarity on prospective projects. Half-day and full-day workshops on Board Governance area also available

In the fall Co-operatives First will also be offering a free Co-ops 101 course in partnership with the University of Saskatchewan’s Centre for the Study of Co-operatives.

“It’s an online course you can work on at your own pace,” Matthews said. “The goal is to help raise awareness of co-ops and how they work.”

In the past people from around the world have enrolled in Co-operatives First courses.

The upcoming course will especially appeal to those involved in a co-op, including volunteers, staff and board members. That’s because it’s important to understand how the co-op model varies from other business models.

Co-ops 101 will provide information on topics such as how decisions are made within a co-op and its connections to shareholders (members).

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