Building Sustainable Communities

Meeting Today’s Needs — Planning for Tomorrow

Images courtesy Saskatchewan Co-operative Association, Colin Anderson, and
the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains


Today's Youth — Tomorrow's Leaders:
The Saskatchewan Co-operative Youth Program

“The skills and knowledge I gained as a participant in the Co-op Schools — leadership, co-operative knowledge, and the importance of community — served me continually during my involvement in the co-op sector. The program is critical in training the young people of today for leadership roles in the future.” — Bill Turner, retired farmer and past president of Sherwood Credit Union, Credit Union Central of Saskatchewan, and the Canadian Co-operative Association


Education is a core principle of the co-operative movement, and formal co-op education has been important in the development of youth across Saskatchewan since the early 1920s. The first official Co-op School, held in 1928, evolved into the Saskatchewan Co-operative Youth Program (SCYP) in 1970. It continues to the present day and has educated more than 42,000 young people to date.




The Beginning

The first Co-op School, held at the University of Saskatchewan, featured lectures on the principles of democracy and co-operation. The schools were created to educate people about co-op principles in order to sustain and strengthen the existing movement and help it to grow in new areas. Co-operative organizations sponsored hundreds of students because the schools turned out so many new co-op leaders.


What is Co-op Camp?

Co-op Camp is about building tomorrow’s leaders, but it also gives young people the chance to get away from it all and provides a wonderful opportunity to learn new things, meet new friends, and develop leadership skills that will give them the confidence to effect change in their own lives and their communities. Yesterday’s campers are today’s co-op leaders, employees, managers, and board members. Again and again, co-op campers report that SCYP changed their lives or set them on a path to success.


“The staff believed in us, which I think boosted our self-esteem and confidence.” — Megan, Saskatoon


“This camp strengthens our community one teen at a time.” — Melissa, Wynyard

Why They Call SCYP Magical

The magic of co-op camp happens when youth learn to focus on what they have in common with others rather than on what makes them different. Ethnic backgrounds, financial positions, religion, gender — none of that matters at co-op camp. Participants learn that they can achieve more working together than they can as individuals. When people start working together, anything becomes possible.



“Participating in the SCYP was one of the greatest experiences of my life!”  — Teal, Nunavut

Images courtesy Saskatchewan Co-operative Association

Community Supported Agriculture

Healthy Land, Healthy Communities

Where did you eat lunch today? Yesterday? Where did the food come from? Did you eat out or buy it from the grocery store and prepare it at home? How did it get to the shelves? Is it safe? Healthy? Has the grower been fairly compensated?


Most of us drive to the store to get our groceries. We select items with little knowledge about where the food comes from. Community-supported agriculture connects local growers to local consumers, with farmers selling their products directly to the consumer. This system builds healthy local economies and gives consumers knowledge about and input into how their food is produced.


Images courtesy Colin Anderson

The Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative

“Farming with a Face on It”

The Harvest Moon Society’s Local Food Initiative is a Manitoba-based marketing collective that helps farmers market their products — beef, poultry, pork, fresh vegetables, and grains — directly to consumers in the area.


The Harvest Moon Society is about more than marketing. Education and celebration are important elements of their organization. They advocate for sustainable food systems through education about production methods and land use. They create linkages between rural and urban citizens through exchanges, retreats, and workshops. But the best part might be the pot-lucks, the annual Harvest Moon Festival, and other grassroots initiatives that unite and empower communities.


For more information about the work and activities of the the Harvest Moon Society, please visit their website.

BSE: Innovation in the Face of Crisis

Producers across the country felt the financial burden of the BSE crisis. Co-operative marketing initiatives and community-supported agriculture are examples of how farmers use creativity and determination to change catastrophe into opportunity.


With markets at an all-time low, some ranchers developed direct marketing businesses to sell their beef. Consumers concerned about the safety of conventional beef turned to these local food sources, where trust-based relationships provided reassurance of safe, healthy food. Building on the momentum of the local food movement, these initiatives represent an important alternative to the traditional food system and are challenging the way we think about food.


Images courtesy Colin Anderson and the Harvest Moon Society

Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains

Preserving the Past to Promote the Future

The Algoma Passenger Train seemed headed for decommission when the schedule dropped runs and the aging rail line and train equipment became increasingly neglected. But in 2006, community members and wilderness business owners along the line teamed up with Algoma University to form the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains to try and save the railway.

“You’ve got to win with what you’ve got” — Ted Nolan


CN’s Algoma Central Railway runs 476 km through spectacular wilderness stretching from Sault Ste. Marie to the northern town of Hearst. The coalition sought to change the train’s flagging reputation to one that emphasized its capacity as the gateway to the northern wilderness. The group created events around local businesses, history, and outdoor activities that were designed to promote awareness and increase passenger use.

“The time is right for rail service revival” — Frank Dobrovnik

All Aboard!

In an effort to promote ridership and community awareness, the coalition organized a number of promotional events. The group uses the train to link citizens with local resources and businesses, creating events that feature wilderness, creativity, and the arts.


We’re Rolling!

In 1918, the Group of Seven painted their way to fame from boxcars that travelled the Algoma Central Railway. The coalition used this little-known fact as a theme for an excursion that retraced the Group of Seven’s path. Activities included hiking into the landscape that inspired the group’s art, photography, oil and water-colour painting workshops, and musical entertainment. The tour was overwhelmingly successful and has become an annual event.


Tickets Please!

Community members boarded the train to Searchmont Ski Resort for a day of outdoor fun. Activities included skiing and snowboarding as well as orienteering, snowshoeing, tobogganing, obstacle races, and tugs-of-war. Cooking bannock over a blazing bonfire capped off the day’s success. Many school groups arranged for followup trips to enjoy the recreational and historical learning opportunities provided by this event.



Next Stop…

An important part of sustainability is using available resources. By creating events that include local businesses, the group is not only promoting the train but also generating positive economic spin-offs for the community. Part of the excitement of the train project is that it brings people together and moves them in directions that link them with art, history, the outdoors, and local resources.

Maintaining the Algoma Passenger Train is vital to many northern residents as one of the only modes of access to remote locations. The train carries with it a rich history that has the potential to be developed into a tourist industry as well as a source of alternative transportation.



For more information about this project, see the final report: Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains. Visit the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains website to learn more.

Images courtesy the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains and CN Rail

Co-ops: Building Sustainable Communities

Co-operatives and credit unions have been building sustainable communities in Canada for a hundred years.

The Co-operators Group Limited

The Co-operators Group is one of the leading Canadian-owned, multi-product insurance providers in the country. Its members include more than forty co-operatives, credit union centrals, and like-minded organizations. Community well-being and sustainability are at the core of its purpose.

The Co-operators recently sponsored Impact! The Co-operators Youth Conference for Sustainability Leadership, which brought together students from across Canada to explore key issues around sustainability and industry. The intent was to harness the energy and ideas of youth to create solutions that work today and into the future.

Mountain Equipment Co-op

MEC helps over three million members across Canada enjoy the benefits of wilderness-oriented recreation by selling ethically sourced, high quality outdoor gear, clothing, and services.MEC contributes to its communities by donating 1 percent of its annual gross sales to Canadian conservation and access causes – more than $2.4 million in 2008.

Federated Co-operatives Limited

Federated Co-operatives Limited provides central wholesaling, manufacturing, marketing, and administrative services to approximately 265 member-owned retail co-ops in more than 500 communities across western Canada.

FCL helps ensure the financial security and sustainability of its members’ communities. Over the last ten years, FCL has returned more than $2.4 billion in net savings to its members. Those co-ops, in turn, have used the funds to benefit both their communities and individual members through improved services and cash-back patronage payments.

Concentra Financial

Concentra is part of Canada’s co-operative financial system. Its members include credit union centrals, co-operatives, and credit unions across the country. The purpose of Concentra is to serve its members while also striving to enhance the quality of life in their communities.

Concentra recognizes the importance of strong organizations and healthy workplaces in building sustainable communities. The company’s policies and practices have resulted in it repeatedly being named one of Canada’s Top 50 Best Managed Companies and one of its Top 100 Employers.

® CONCENTRA FINANCIAL & DESIGN is a registered trade-mark owned by Concentra Financial Services Association