The support gap has narrowed for co-operatives and nonprofits seeking social and corporately-aligned legal support in BC and Alberta, thanks to the establishment of the Community and Co‑operative Counsel (CCC).
The Community and Co‑operative Counsel teamed together in 2020 to provide legal and consulting services tailored to the specific and unique needs of the co-operative and nonprofit communities in Alberta, British Columbia, and Canada.
CCC is a Co-operative Initiative
The CCC is a co-operative initiative between Alberta Community and Co-operative Association (ACCA), BC Co-op Association (BCCA), and independent legal counsel working to help fill the gap for accessible and dynamic legal and consulting services for co-operative and nonprofit communities. The CCC was developed based on the increased demand the ACCA and BCCA saw from co-ops and nonprofits seeking corporately-aligned legal, consulting, and advocacy services.
“Working to support co-operatives put us in close contact with multiple civil service organizations – nonprofits, charities and the like,” said Paul Cabaj, executive director for ACCA. “Through our offices, we were hearing these organizations were facing frustrations while attempting to secure legal services that truly understood and met their needs.”Developed to meet unique challenges and opportunities
Nonprofits and co-ops are governed by different legislation, and their structure poses unique challenges and opportunities. Trying to find adept legal counsel tailored to the specific and unique needs of co-ops and nonprofits can be difficult, expensive and frustrating. For example, co-operatives face unique challenges due to their particular nature as democratically-controlled organizations that provide equitable economic benefits to their members. The bottom line is that both nonprofits and co-ops are governed by a different set of legal and social concerns. Their legal structures present unique opportunities and challenges that call out for mission-aligned legal counsel.
“Co-ops and nonprofits are a diverse group. Not only by the services they provide but also by their size and structure. Individually they bring different priorities, questions, and concerns to the table,” explains Elliot Bridgewater, Legal Counsel and co-founder of CCC. “Collectively, the CCC brings together a team of experienced independent legal counsel that has more than 40 years of experience working with local and national co-operatives and nonprofits. Our areas of experience include agricultural, investment, housing, electric and telecommunications utilities, energy, healthcare, financial/credit union, grocery, insurance, and education.”
“We also bring a stream of thought-leaders and advocates with the necessary skills to develop high-quality and reliable legal precedents tailored to the unique legal needs of co-operatives, nonprofits and social enterprises.”
CCC team member and co-founder Bill Oemichen brings previous governance consultant experience and has provided non-legal consulting services in association with CCC. “Bill has been a great resource and long-time ally for ACCA,” offered Cabaj. “His research on co-operative governance, financing, regulation, and risk identification and mitigation have benefited us and co-ops across Alberta and North America.”
7 Co-operative Principles were built into the service model
Built into the CCC service model are the 7 Co-operative Principles, including identifying values of openness, honesty, social responsibility and caring for others. To judge the team solely on their professional and personable characteristics would be short-changing the scope of the initiative that CCC is. In addition to providing professional and accessible legal services tailored to cooperatives, social enterprises, and non-profits’ unique needs, CCC takes a holistic approach to advocacy to build solidarity within and among these communities through government relations and public and professional education initiatives.
The Community and Co‑operative Counsel offices are located in Vancouver and Edmonton. To connect with the team, please call (587) 760-0369 or visit coopcounsel.ca.