Grow your principal with your principles.
Today’s blog is about cooperatives. Granted sometimes one thing can lead to another. Just search online for cooperatives and you get hits on systems thinking, community development, social justice, meaningful jobs, and sustainable economic development – even world peace! Despite their positive impact on economic and social development, cooperatives still remain poorly understood.
My understanding of cooperatives came from living in a community rich in housing cooperatives and witnessing members collaborate to solve community-wide problems. Since joining the Solar Power Investment Coooperative of Edmonton, or as we are more commonly known – SPICE, I have learned to appreciate the broader degree to which cooperatives are a growing part of Alberta’s financial, social and environmental landscape. I now see cooperatives as powerful engines for solving complex problems and engaging in asset-based community development. As you learn more about us, I hope you too will hear a train whistle and want to jump on board as well. Below are the seven principles that all cooperatives maintain to put their values into practice:
- Voluntary and Open Membership
- Democratic Member Control
- Member Economic Participation
- Autonomy and Independence
- Education, Training and Information
- Cooperation among Co-operatives
- Concern for Community
Cooperatives in Alberta started with discontent farmers who turned to cooperative marketing and purchasing to form the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA). Now coops have evolved into political and economic powerhouses that do business across all sectors. An oft quoted fact is that cooperatives worldwide employ 20% more people than multi-national corporations in direct jobs. Alberta is a stronghold for cooperatives with the most utility and seed cleaning coops in Canada. And did you know that cooperative banks like Servus Credit Union are shown to be more stable than commercial and savings banks?
It is interesting to note that Alberta’s gas cooperatives and their umbrella group, the Alberta Community Cooperative Association (ACCA), started asking whether their skills and learnings might translate to the formation of alternative renewable energy coops over 10 years ago? SPICE was inevitable and is now proud to be joining the ranks of other Alberta cooperatives to help create jobs and unleash local capital for investment in Alberta’s renewable energy future. SPICE maintains hope that Alberta can achieve a just transition and become both ecologically and financially sustainable.
SPICE’s founders chose the cooperative model with intention when they took a look at the world around them – one full of corporate greed, inequality, and environmental disregard. The cooperative model and principles seemed like a perfect antitode. SPICE has invested in training for its Board of Directors with Lynn Hannley of Communitas, an expert with over 30 years of coop experience, and have also benefited from the rich history and learning resources provided by the ACCA and Miller Thompson, such as lawyer Brian Kaliel who is also a passionate advocate of cooperatives.
SPICE is a solar investment cooperative seeking prosperity centered around people and their communities. Membership in SPICE is inclusive and designed to serve all Albertans for the long term. A report by the BC-Alberta Social Economy Research Alliance found that the three-year survival rate of cooperatives in Alberta to be 81.5% in comparison to 48% for traditional firms. Wish us luck and come back often to follow our progress. Remember, SPICE helps to bring you interest on principal from principled interests. We are all about people, planet, prosperity, and of course, photons.
Dr. Raquel Feroe
SPICE Board of Directors