We are Co-ops: Braving COVID-19 in co-operation

| Business, We Are Co-ops

By Madelyn Read 

Brave is a multi-stakeholder co-operative based in Vancouver whose mission is to reduce overdose deaths. They accomplish this by developing technologies that enable drug users to connect with support when they are at risk of an overdose: 

  • Brave Button, an emergency alert button often placed in supportive housing units 
  • Be Safe App, an app designed to help people using drugs alone access emergency help with their smartphone 
  • Odetect, a sensor system that detects if someone may be overdosing in a small enclosed space, such as a washroom  

Gordon Casey, a founder of Brave and current worker-owner, emphasized that Brave’s multi-stakeholder structure is a critical component of their cooperative. Their stakeholders include investors, workers, and users. Users are key stakeholders as they are the ones actually using the app, and their membership includes meaningful participation in the design and implementation of the technology.  

Brave’s work has only become more essential with the emergence of COVID-19. The pandemic puts drug users at heightened risk, especially those who are most vulnerable within the city.  

Throughout the crisis, Brave has been at work making their technologies as accessible as possible as quickly as possible. This work has included further installations of Brave Buttons, especially within Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, as well as the accelerated launch of their Be Safe App. The App was initially supposed to be released later this year, but Brave recognized the immediate need for access to it.  

One of the key messages around safe drug use is “never use alone,” which is a challenging rule to follow in an era of social distancing. Given current health and safety guidelines, Brave’s technology plays a critical role in connecting people with emergency help. Gordon highlighted that while the App is not perfect, it felt wrong to hold onto it for fine-tuning when there was such a significant need for it within the community.  

When asked what lessons Gordon could offer to the co-operative community, Gordon called attention to the often overly modest nature of co-operators, and advised co-operators to be more vocal about their successes and the value they are adding to their communities. Certainly, we want to be accurate and honest, but co-ops can be more assertive about the value their products and services add to their communities.  

If you would like to keep up-to-date with Brave, you can visit their website or sign up for their newsletter.