ACEIRECUSCASC conference 2019

Longueuil, Quebec (a suburb of Montreal)

I consider this conference a big success. Every session was good, and a number were outstanding. Two of them were so useful that I wrote them up in detail: converting businesses to worker co-ops and addressing power dynamics. Additionally, we made many new contacts and renewed some old friendships. (If you don’t see the captions on the photos, click here.)

At the end of the conference, the organizers took participants on tours of the solidarity economy in Montreal. This building, known simply as Building 7, houses a print shop, a darkroom, a space with two 3D printers, a woodworking shop, a metalworking shop, a pottery workshop, a silkscreening workshop, a small grocery store, a coffeehouse/brewpub (brewing is done on site), a bike workshop, a car workshop, an assortment of meeting rooms, dedicated space for teens, dedicated space for very young children, and a storage area. And all that only takes up about a quarter of the building.
Photo by the author.

Common themes across presentations:

  • Research on co-ops needs to continue, and increase. Research needs to be applied by cooperators and policy-makers.
  • Ongoing education of cooperators (and the general public) is very important. The co-op model is applicable across academic fields, not just business studies.
  • The co-op principles are not just an ethical standard, but a comparative advantage, as well.
  • Revenue is not the only indicator of success. There’s also embodying the co-op principles — however, this is difficult to measure. Multiple groups are experimenting with ways to do so.
  • Co-ops that address a need will succeed. Those that do not will struggle.
  • Clear, thoughtful, effective communication is a vital co-op skill.
  • Individual co-ops need to scale up, but if we cooperate between co-ops, scale is already there.
  • Growth is an important goal, to the extent it means meeting more needs, not for its own sake.

We talked with a representative of the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops (the equivalent of MadWorC in western Massachusetts) about their internal loan fund, and the Co-Executive Director of the Vermont Worker Ownership Center about the co-op investment club in his area. These talks are also written up in a separate document.

Another stop on my tour was a cooperative funeral home. There are 18 funeral-home co-ops in the province of Quebec, and this one has six locations in and around Montreal.
Photo by the author.

Extensive notes on the presentations are available on request.