Co-operatives First - Your Way

Co-operatives First officials preparing to launch campaign in March

By Sam Laskaris
Cando Contributor

Trista Pewapisconias 2Officials with Co-operatives First are gearing up for the start of a major campaign in early March.

Co-operatives First, an organization which promotes and supports business development in rural and Indigenous communities throughout provinces in western Canada, will launch its campaign titled ‘Your Way, Together’ on March 2.

Trista Pewapisconias, the Indigenous Engagement Lead for Co-operatives First, prepared most of the information for the guidebook Your Way, Together.

“Through this campaign, we hope to inspire Indigenous peoples and communities to explore the cooperative model and how it might benefit them,” said Audra Krueger, who is Co-operatives First executive director. “Our goal is to spark a conversation - a conversation with us, perhaps, but more importantly, one by and for Indigenous people.”

The goal of the campaign is to boost awareness and further promote the use within Indigenous communities in western Canada of the co-op model.

But as the name of the campaign suggests, it won’t be the Co-operatives First officials simply dictating how things should be done.

“Co-operation is nothing new to Indigenous peoples, and we see a natural fit between the co-operative model and development opportunities for Indigenous people and communities,” Krueger said.

Opportunities vary throughout different provinces.

“Your Way, Together aims to inspire Indigenous people to explore the model in whatever way makes sense for their communities,” Krueger said.

The campaign will include the release of a guidebook, which will include detailed information on the various opportunities and challenges that will in all likelihood be met while starting a business in Indigenous communities.

“The Your Way, Together guidebook provides a pathway around common barriers, and for the questions it doesn’t answer, we offer suggestions and point to supports along the way,” said Trista Pewapisconias, the Indigenous Engagement Lead for Co-opertives First.

The guidebook attempts to answer questions to many different situations. That alone is a challenging task since First Nations tend to have their own set of rules, bylaws and policies.

For Pewapisconias, who was hired three years ago, preparing information that will be in the guidebook has been one of her main tasks.

“I’ve always kept the information that I gathered and the inquiries I had,” said Pewapisconias, a member of Little Pine First Nation in Saskatchewan. “This (guidebook) is a combination of three years’ worth of work.”

Pewapisconias said she has some mixed emotions about the fact one of her major projects has been completed and is about to be released to the public.

“I’m excited and nervous at the same time,” she said. “And I’m relieved too. The more people that are aware of this information, hopefully they’ll be inspired to create their co-op.”

The Your Way, Together guidebook will be available in a digital format and in a print form.

Pewapisconias anticipates early on in the campaign that the majority of guidebooks will be downloaded digitally.

She added she is not sure how many printed copies will eventually become available.

“We will have physical copies,” she said. “But due to the pandemic, it will be an ongoing thing. Hopefully when things get back to normal we’ll be able to mail them out to communities.”

Pewapisconias is hoping the guidebook will be well received.

“I hope it will be useful as a resource guide,” she said.

Though she prepared the majority of the information that will be in the guidebook, Pewapisconias said she can’t take credit for its title, one she loves but a moniker she did not think up herself.

“Your Way, Together came from the idea of being inclusive,” she said. “We help and assist people to create their co-operative. We are not dictating how the new entity should be run.”


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