Co-ops_Farmers_New Ag - Centre for the Study of Co-operatives

usaskstudies.coop

Co-ops_Farmers_New Ag - Centre for the Study of Co-operatives

2 F A I R B A I R Ncame from, but equally, the creation of co-operatives opened up new possibilities. As if by alaw of unintended consequences, what people learned was not always what they expected,and in this history of pragmatism, of trial and error, the ideals of co-operation were graduallydiscovered along the way, at least by some of the participants. Somewhere in all thisthere is an insight into Saskatchewan culture, but it is not simple.W H A T I S A C O-O P?CO-OPERATIVES ARE NOT A SASKATCHEWAN INVENTION. They areequally strong in many other places; we cannot even say truthfully thatSaskatchewan is the most co-operative province in Canada — that would surely be Québec.The official definition is that “a co-operative is an autonomous association of personsunited voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirationsthrough a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.” 3 Reflecting as itdoes nearly two hundred years of debate among co-operators, there is a lot packed into thisone-sentence definition. Two observations stand out.First, co-operatives express needs and aspirations — “co-ops arise from need,” asmany people in the co-operative movement put it.Second, the key substantives in the definition above are the words association andenterprise. Co-operatives are what happens when the modern idea of a democratic voluntaryassociation is fused with the modern idea of a business. Wherever in the world and wheneverin history people have merged those models, they have created co-operatives. Usually, theydid so because they had an economic concern that a conventional business model didn’tseem to address. Co-operatives are integrally related to community voluntarism, activism,and self-improvement, and indeed, there is an important overlap between Saskatchewan’sco-operative movement and its local networks of associations and community leaders. 4 Butco-operatives are equally closely linked to business. It is the desire to operate a business thatC E N T R E F O R T H E S T U D Y O F C O - O P E R A T I V E S

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines