Introduction to the Exhibit

Building Community

Why This Exhibit?

"There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about." — Margaret J. Wheatley

Image courtesy Ontario Co-operative Association [top]

What Is Community?

Can It Be Built?

“In every community there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart there is the power to do it.” — Marianne Williamson

The word “community” usually makes us think about where we live, play, or work, about the groups we belong to and how we are connected to other members of that community. It gives us a sense of belonging.

Is it possible to build community? How does that happen? What does it take?


We care about our communities. We want them to celebrate diversity, to motivate people and get them involved. We want innovative solutions that promise food and income security, youth development, and the preservation of heritage and culture. We want economic growth that benefits local markets. We want to feel that we belong, that our needs are recognized, that we have the ability to contribute. We want to be proud to say “This is my community!”

So how do we make the dreams for our community become a reality?

Images courtesy Jean Paul, contracted by PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise, and Colin Anderson [top]

The Social Economy

Innovative and Making a Difference

We are all familiar with the traditional economic model in which more for me often means less for you. What matters is profit, the bottom line. The social economy is different. It’s not just about profit for investors. It’s about improving well-being for people and their communities.


Social Economy organizations are financially successful too, but they also have social, cultural, and environmental goals. They provide benefits to the people who use their services and are democratically governed by people from the communities where they exist.

The social economy includes co-operatives, credit unions, non-profit organizations, and other social enterprises. While some have served their communities for decades, others are being developed to meet changing needs and circumstances.


Images courtesy Brian Hydesmith and the Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company, Marie Prebushewski, Inner City Renovation, and the Harvest Moon Society [top]

Linking, Learning, Leveraging

Social Enterprises, Knowledgeable Economies, and Sustainable Communities

The Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, University of Saskatchewan, led a five-year research project on the social economy funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We explored over ninety examples of the social economy in action in Northern Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. The results are featured in this exhibition.


The research focuses on how the social economy sector addresses current needs and opportunities. It specifically seeks to understand how social-economy organizations can be used to build more respectful relationships – with community, the environment, and organizational stakeholders. The research also identifies effective governance models, financing strategies, and government policy initiatives that will help the social economy flourish.



Images courtesy Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, SEED Winnipeg, Inc., and Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. [top]

Community-Based Research

Working Together for Understanding and Action

“Community based research aims not merely to advance understanding, but also to ensure that knowledge contributes  to making a concrete and constructive difference  in the world.”  — The Loka Institute, 2002


In more traditional research models, the research questions and methods of exploration are often designed entirely by the researcher. Community-based research is different. It involves researchers and community groups working together on a common problem. All the projects featured in this exhibit are examples of community-based research.



“Community-based research is a collaboration between community groups and researchers for the purpose of creating new knowledge or understanding about a practical community issue in order to bring about change. The issue is generated by the community and community members participate in all aspects of the research process. Community-based research therefore is collaborative, participatory, empowering, systematic and transformative.” — NORDIK Research Institute website

Images courtesy Dwayne Pattison, Roger Herman, Lou Hammond Ketilson [top]

Mapping the Exhibit

This exhibit illustrates how the social economy helps to build Engaged, Enterprising, Inclusive, and Sustainable communities.


In each section of the exhibit you will find illustrations of exciting new social economy projects and organizations. You will also discover examples of longstanding co-ops and credit unions that have been building community for decades. Although there are four distinct modules in this exhibit, they are closely connected and interrelated. As you move among the displays, try to make some of those connections, and also identify how co-ops and credit unions are core pieces of your own community.


Images courtesy Saskatchewan Co-operative Association, Assiniboine Credit Union, and Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. [top]