Converting Conventional Businesses to Co-operatives
Presentation One: Quintin Fox
The Canadian Co-op Association (CCA) has been working on a conversion project with focus on rural areas, though of course similar issues apply in urban regions.
The CFIB estimates that there is a risk of 2 million job losses due to lack of family members available to take over businesses. Many small business owners are reluctant to sell to multi-nationals or other large companies.
The reasons that the project focused on rural areas are:
- There is already significant structural unemployment in those areas; there is social exclusion, out-migration, etc.
- There has previously been work done in this area, with CWCF having done a research study a few years ago on this, with a focus on worker co-op.
In Quebec, an I&R project was approved (Projet Relais) to create tools to support conversions. Then CCA, along with other partners such as CWCF, carried out a similar I&R project, to build on the Quebec project, as well as what has happened in the UK.
Several co-ops are in start-up or have started as a result of this CCA project.
There are several different barriers to conversion:
- Role of traditional advisors: including credit union advisors. Many are either ignorant of, or not supportive of conversion to co-op.
- They began to implement a “watch” system to identify businesses undergoing succession. This has been a challenge. They came up with a number of tools: one is a coop-specific conversions website. They have found the importance of working with local / regional partners.
In the UK, a rural communities advocate organization identifies trends where services are declining, looks at new models & then seeks to implement. This will be a recommendation to the Coops Secretariat/ Rural Secretariat.
They have worked with a number of rural businesses & communities; are seeking opportunities to provide training & advice to developers – like today. They are using the CZ site as a primary resource to get out this information.
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