While in Victoria for this year’s AGM, the BCCA staff took the opportunity to visit several members and other co-ops on Vancouver Island. This included tours at Peninsula Co-op, Stocksy United, and Victoria Women in Need Community Co-operative (WIN).
Co-ops have the ability to address social issues on a community level while providing better ways to retain money within that local community. Vancouver Island is no different. Peninsula, WIN, and Stocksy all shared their stories with us, and demonstrated how they embody the unique co-op principles.
A common theme that we took away from this visit, was that our members market their co-operative structure as a way to stand apart from their competitors. Despite the difficulties that any local business faces, there is something that members are particularly drawn to: democratic ownership.
At Stocksy United Co-op, you can see Co-op Principle #2: Democratic Member Control, in action. Stocksy’s focus is on highly curated stock photography and video and are a multi-stakeholder co-op whose members are photographers and videographers from around the world. Dan Ross, Stocksy’s Co-Founder, explained how the co-op model was the right business model as they fought hard to raise artist’s wages during a time when it wasn’t uncommon to earn just $0.04 per photo. With the formation of three streams of membership, Stocksy has created a democratic global co-op where artists earn between 50-75% of the profits from sales of their art. This places them in a niche marketplace in the world of stock photography. Stocksy’s co-operative model demonstrates how co-ops can serve as the solution to growing issues such as the depreciation of work in the arts and culture sector. But what about the consumer side of things?
As large businesses buy out local brick and mortar shops, consumers certainly may benefit from wholesale prices due to the scale of those companies. However, most of the profits then typically leave those communities, where co-operatives are able to take a more local approach.
Peninsula Co-op, like many consumer co-ops, is more than a successful enterprise complete with 17 gas centres, a Food Centre, home heating services, and cardlocks; Peninsula Co-op is a proud community contributor. Last year alone, Peninsula Co-op gave nearly $500,000 to 250 local initiatives on top of $5.3 million in annual membership rebates. It should come as no surprise that while speaking with Peninsula Co-op’s Marketing Manager, Lindsay Gaudette, we were seated alongside a giant soon-to-be donated cheque. The nearly 90,000 members of Peninsula Co-op can feel good about purchasing from their co-op knowing the money will go back into their local economy and community initiatives. This type of ownership is part of the co-op advantage.
Even not-for-profit co-ops, or Community Service Co-ops, can offer members the chance to have a stake in the business. At Victoria Women in Need Community Co-operative, staff and volunteers have the opportunity to positively shape everything from the environment within which they operate as well as the conditions they create for the women and families they serve.
Executive Director, Clare Yazganoglu, and Communications Coordinator, Jasmine Philip, took the BCCA staff to their Pandora Avenue and Cook Street locations and gave an overview of their history. Over the course of twenty-five years, WIN has opened four second hand stores in various locations on the Island with over thirty-five staff and fifty volunteers, all of whom have the ability to shape the future of WIN. WIN’s Self-Sufficiency, Transformations and New Start Programs, among others, support women in gaining financial independence and wellness.
Although co-ops like WIN have thrived on the commitment of their members for decades, we are starting to see more and more interest in those seeking out the co-op model. Today’s social climate has stirred up the next generation of people who seek a role in creating and guiding community based co-ops.
Thank you for reading! We encourage you to reach out to us to let us share your employment and volunteer opportunities, as well as any community events within the co-op sector. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.