The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced opportunities for professionals across the co-operative sector to travel, meet new colleagues, and exchange ideas away from formal meetings. To provide an opportunity for individuals to engage in a "new normal" format, the Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives is pleased to host monthly Co-op Conversations (formerly Brown Bag). This series will provide co-operative sector professionals with an online forum to learn from others in the field and exchange information in a casual setting. 

The CCSC believes that the best learning is peer-to-peer, and casual conversations across different organizations are what break old thinking patterns, make new connections, and generate fresh perspectives. Each monthly Co-op Conversation will start with a 15-minute presentation by an invited speaker who is working on or thinking about something new, challenging, or inspiring. Following the presentation, the CCSC will facilitate a broad conversation. Sometimes participants will be broken into small groups to discuss ideas, or the moderator will open the virtual floor up for questions, comments, and dialogue. 

Upcoming Conversations

Our next Co-op Conversation will be announced in the coming days. 

Past Conversations

The Co-op Difference: Comparing Co-op and Market Rents in Five Canadian Cities

In this Co-op Conversation, Greg Suttor, Nick Falvo, and Courtney Lockhart will share findings from their recent report that compares housing charges in non-profit co-operatives to similar private sector marketing units in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, and Ottawa. Based on their findings that co-op housing units were consistently more affordable than market apartments, and this gap has widened over the period of 2006 – 2021, they will discuss the implications of this finding on the future of the co-operative housing sector.

About our Speakers:

Nick Falvo is a Calgary-based research consultant with a PhD in Public Policy. He has developed and taught one of Canada’s only university-level courses on affordable housing.

Greg Suttor is a semi-retired housing policy and research consultant. He has 30 years’ experience as a research and policy advisor, at municipal and provincial government, Wellesley Institute, and as an independent consultant.

Courtney Lockhart works at the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada developing policy to support the growth of the non-profit co-operative housing sector. Most recently she was a part of a team that saw $1.5 billion announced in Budget 2022 to develop a new Co-op Housing Development Program – the first in 30 years.

Event Information

Date: Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm (Saskatchewan time or Central Standard Time)
File: Download Event Poster

Climate Change and Risk Management within Credit Unions featuring Ritu Linfoot

Managing the risks associated with climate change has become an escalating priority for financial institutions globally. As the financial services industry engages in financial activities that span all sectors of the economy, it is particularly vulnerable to climate related risks. The changes in weather and climate are increasing the frequency and volatility of weather events and amplifying financial institutions’ exposure to climate-related losses across their portfolios. To mitigate these risks and stabilize the health of the banking system, financial institutions must develop and implement long-term climate strategies and manage the financial risks associated with climate change. In this Co-op Conversation, Ritu Linfoot, Director of Risk Operations and Enterprise Risk Management at Vancity, will share Vancity’s approach to climate change, which includes goals to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040, and assessing and mitigating climate risks the organization faces, as well as share some lessons learned.

About our speaker

Ritu Linfoot is the Director of Risk Operations and Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) at Vancity Credit Union. Over her 30-year cooperative career at Vancity, Ritu has held multiple leadership roles including in branches, in information technology, on projects that focus on large scale change management and business readiness activities, and now currently in Enterprise Risk.

Event Information

Date: Wednesday, January 4, 2023
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm (Saskatchewan time or Central Standard Time)
File: Download Event Poster

Making Financial Services Accessible for Underserved Communities featuring Susan Henry

For more than 20 years, the Alterna Savings Community Microfinance Program has focused on making its small-dollar loans available to women, BIPOC, new and racialized Canadians, and low-income individuals. In this Co-op Conversation, Susan Henry, Alterna Savings’ Director of Community Impact & Financial Inclusion, talks about how Alterna Savings is realizing on the co-operative values of equity, equality and solidarity by making available opportunities for financial independence by reducing barriers to banking for those often excluded from mainstream financial institutions. As part of her talk, Susan will dig into the impact of Alterna’s Community Microfinance Program at the individual, corporate, and broader societal levels and share how lessons learned from the program are helping shape the development of new lending programs for underserved communities.

About our speaker

Susan Henry, Director of Community Impact & Financial Inclusion at Alterna Savings, has over 25 years of experience working with underserved, under-represented individuals and communities. Susan was instrumental in leading the launch of Alterna Savings’ award-winning Community Microfinance Program and the Community Loan Funds Partnership Programs.

Event Information

Date: Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm (Saskatchewan time or Central Standard Time)
File: Download Event Poster

International Development – A Co-operative Approach featuring Qian Wan

Over the last 30 years, international development agencies have gradually abandoned the top-down approach to economic development that recipients have long criticized as paternalistic, inefficient, and insensitive to local realities. Increasingly, these agencies couch their work as “community-based ”, “community-led ”, “community-driven ”, or “locally-led” development. Rarely, however, do these development efforts structurally embed community voice in the form of a democratic voting mechanism. As member-owned and democratically controlled organizations serving the community’s mutual needs and aspirations, co-operatives by contrast have long understood the benefits of hard-wiring local voices into economic development. Please join us on November 2 as Qian Wan, the Co-operative Development Specialist at CDF Canada and a PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan, introduces the concept of the Integrated Co-operative Approach CDF Canada uses in its international development work.   

About our speaker

Qian Wan is Cooperative Development Specialist at CDF Canada. He supports the design and implementation of projects to use the cooperative model as a vehicle for local economic development and social resilience. Mr. Wan has experience designing cooperative development strategies to facilitate technology adoption, access to financial services, agricultural value chain, women empowerment, climate-smart agriculture, childcare service provision, etc. He also provides technical support to the program team regarding cooperative governance, cooperative assessment, cooperative start-up, etc.

Event Information


Date: Wednesday, November 2, 2022
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm (Saskatchewan time or Central Standard Time)
File: Download Event Poster

Do Co-operative Employees Shop at Co-operatives? Featuring Stan Yu

Over the past year, the Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives has been working on a study exploring the shopping behaviour of co-operative employees. The study tries to answer three questions: 1) do people who work at co-operatives buy the goods and services they help to produce; 2) do they demonstrate an affinity for consuming the goods and services of other co-operatives, to the benefit of the larger co-operative sector; and 3) what attitudinal motivators and/or demographics are associated with shopping at a co-operative? To answer these questions, we administered a survey to three co-operatives in an urban Saskatchewan centre. The survey generated 359 employee responses. In this presentation, Stan Yu will be sharing some findings from this study and facilitating a conversation about their implications for the co-operative sector. 

Event Information
Date: Wednesday, October 5, 2022
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm (Saskatchewan time)
File: Download Event Poster

Called to Act: Implementing Reconciliation in Co-operatives featuring Tanya Tourangeau

We have all—including the co-operative sector—been called to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Tanya Tourangeau sees this moment as an invitation to action for us all to “live into our treaties.” In our first Brown Bag session of the fall, Tanya will discuss her work bringing Reconciliation to organizations through joint economic development, policy development, strategic planning, stakeholder relations, and organizational change. She will also provide insight on how co-operatives can build reconciliation strategies aligned with the needs and strengths of local Indigenous communities and their businesses. Reconciliation can’t be achieved without being partners, allies, and friends.

Speaker Biography: Tanya Tourangeau is a proud Dene from the Northwest Territories, currently living on Treaty 6 territory in Edmonton, Alberta. Her work focuses on bridging partnerships and relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments and organizations so we can build this nation better together. Tanya’s consulting firm, Tanya T Consulting, supports governments, not-for-profits, co-operatives, and for-profit companies in implementing Reconciliation through strategy, policy, and stakeholder relations.

Event Information


Date: Wednesday, September 7, 2022
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm (CST)
File: Download Event Poster

Cooperatives and cooperation: Is it so straightforward? featuring Dr. Bina Agarwal

While the two terms are often seen as synonymous, what do we understand by “cooperatives” and “cooperation”? Focusing on agricultural cooperatives, Dr. Bina Agarwal, Professor of Development Economics and Environment at the University of Manchester and visiting scholar at the Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, will examine the nature of cooperatives and cooperation, how they have varied in relation to each other throughout history and contextually, and ask: “is there scope for cooperation in farming today? And, if so, in what circumstances?”

Event Information


Date: Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm (CST)
File: Download Event Poster

Big Agricultural Data: Are Co-operatives a Solution? featuring Bill Oemichen

Primary production agriculture is changing rapidly due to major developments in digital “smart” technologies, or what is known as big ag data. While big ag data provides value, it also creates a set of problems and challenges, including concerns around privacy, security, data ownership, competition and market power. Informed by his recently published report, "Digital Technologies and the Big Data Revolution in the Canadian Agricultural Sector: Opportunities, Challenges, and Alternatives", in this Brown Bag, Bill Oemichen reviews what we know about the issues surrounding big ag data and explores whether co-operatives provide a solution.

Event Information

Date: Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm (CST, or Saskatchewan time)
File: Download Event Poster

The Future of Co-operative Associations: A Conversation with Paul Cabaj

Anyone who has been around the co-operative sector knows that it can be difficult for second or third tier co-operative associations to satisfy the differing needs of a membership often divided by culture, rural/urban geographies, size, capacity, and business philosophy. In this talk, Paul Cabaj, Executive Director of the Alberta Community and Co-operative Association and the BC Co-operative Association, will share with us what he has learned from the successes and failures of second and third tier co-operative associations. Drawing on his experience as a long-time participant in, and observer, of these associations, Paul will challenge the audience to consider strategies that can strengthen member value and advance the co-op sector as a whole – provincially, nationally and internationally.

Event Information

Date: Wednesday, April 6, 2022
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm (CST, or Saskatchewan time)
Where: On Zoom
File: Download Event Poster

What's Fair in an Insolvency Process? Lessons from the Sale of Mountain Equipment Cooperative featuring Anna Lund

In September 2020, Mountain Equipment Cooperative’s (MEC) business was sold using the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act, a federal law designed to help big businesses facing financial difficulties. MEC’s directors negotiated and concluded the sale without input from MEC’s members. This result was inconsistent with the centrality of democratic decision-making to co-operative governance and struck many members as unfair. This presentation will highlight some of the ways in which insolvency law could have responded to the members’ concerns about unfairness and given them a voice in the insolvency proceedings. 

Date: March 2, 2022
Time: 12:00 - 1:00 PM (Saskatchewan time)
File: Download Event Poster

A Passport to Success: How Credit Unions Can Adapt to the Urgent Challenges They Face featuring David Losier

Join us for our next Monthly Brown Bag featuring David Losier, independent consultant and former Executive Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer for UNI Financial Corporation. In his recent paper, “A Passport to Success: How Credit Unions Can Adapt to the Urgent Challenges They Face”, David makes the case that despite the critically important role credit unions play in the Canadian economy, the current regulatory system for credit unions in Canada has each of them locked into a provincial silo. Although the Federal option is out there, the case is made that this has simply introduced an 11th silo and just doesn’t fit most credit unions. With more and more credit unions recognizing the need to increase scale in order to face the challenges of a digital future, there needs to be a better way. David suggests that a passport system that would allow credit unions to operate across provincial boundries without getting a federal charter could be a better way. We’ll learn about how this passport system would work for credit unions and its potential benefits for the co-operative sector.

Date: January 5, 2022
Time: 12:00 - 1:00 PM (Saskatchewan time)
File: Download Event Poster

Coops, Credit Unions, and Public Financial Institutions: What Prospects in Canada? featuring Thomas Marois

What prospects are there in Canada to connect public financial institutions (PFIs) with the needs and aspirations of coops and credit unions? The question is not rhetorical. The Canada Infrastructure Bank, formed in 2017, is approaching its five-year review. It has been criticized for promoting privatization of public water services and there is little sense that the CIB is strategically interested in supporting coops or credit unions. Should it be? In 2020, the Government of British Columbia established a new $500 million public investment fund, the InBC Investment Corporation. It has a triple bottom line mandate and is tasked with supporting SMEs, green transitions, and an inclusive economy. Yet here too there is as yet no strategic orientation towards coops or credit unions. This Monthly Brown Bag featuring Thomas Marois, PhD, will ask: In what ways can and should PFIs support coops and credit unions to help create more inclusive and green social economies?

Date: February 2, 2022
Time: 12:00 - 1:00 PM (Saskatchewan time)
File: Download Event Poster

Making Co-operatives First: How We Started, What We Do, and Lessons Learned

Join us for our second Monthly Brown Bag to talk about Co-operatives First, a nonprofit organization funded by Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) and the Co-operative Retailing System (CRS). Our speakers are Audra Krueger, Executive Director of Co-operatives First, and Sheldon Stener Q.C., GeneralCounsel and Corporate Secretary, FCL, and Chair of the Board at Co-operatives First. Founded in 2015, Co-operatives First provides co-op start-up resources, such as feasibility studies, business plans, and incorporation support to rural and Indigenous co-op entrepreneurs across western Canada. Their goal is to help leaders in these communities build new businesses, grow local economies, and support community development. Audra and Sheldon will share the story of Co-operatives First, which began with a research project called the Co-operative Innovation Project (CIP) at the University ofSaskatchewan’s Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives. We’ll learn why FCL and the CRS invested in this project, and what the Co-operatives First team has learned in its six years of operationsin rural and Indigenous communities across western Canada.

Date: December 1, 2021
Time: 12:00 - 1:00 PM (Saskatchewan time)
File: Download Event Poster

 

Community-Based Innovation: The Story of the Conexus Incubator and Venture Capital Fund

In the inaugural CCSC Monthly Brown Bag, Conexus Credit Unions' Chief Executive Officer Eric Dillon and Chief Member Experience Officer Mary Weimer shared the story of how Conexus leveraged its co-operative and community connections to build a small business incubator (Conexus Cultivator) and venture capital fund (Conexus Venture Capital) to deliver technical advice, strategic guidance, and financial support for Saskatchewan’s start-up businesses. To date, 66 Saskatchewan start-up companies have taken part in the Conexus Cultivator and raised $19.4 million in capital and $11.1 million in revenue.

Date: November 3, 2021
Time: 12:00 - 1:00 p.m (SK Time)
File: Download Event Poster