It’s International Co-op Week during October 16-22 and a time to celebrate the co-operative sector. But what is a co-op? And how are they making a difference in our communities?
A co-operative is a group of people working together to achieve a common goal. In Saskatchewan, co-operatives have been around even before the province was officially formed – from people working collaboratively to support their families; to working class families trying to make ends meet in the 1930s; to today with over 800 different co-operatives (and growing) in the province. These include consumer co-operatives (i.e., Federated Co-op), insurance co-operatives (i.e., Co-operators), Credit Unions, and service co-operatives (i.e., Access Communications), just to name a few. Co-operatives are formed because there is a need for a certain service, and people decide to work together to provide that service to their community, which also helps to create local jobs.
At Access, we pride ourselves on our commitment to community and customer service. We love giving back to the over 235 communities we serve in ways such as our Community BBQ Tour, the Annual Labour Day Show N Shine, Pumpkin Patrol, our Access Community Rink, and other community service projects. We provide funding through our registered charity, the Access Communications Children’s Fund. Our Children’s Fund supports initiatives for youth at risk and in need across the province, and raises money through our popular TV Bingo program, Access staff fundraising, and generous public donations. As a not-for-profit co-operative, our mandate is to do our part to improve lives in the communities we serve. Access reinvests every dollar earned right back into our province – by improving our services and network, telling the stories of Saskatchewan with truly local content on our AccessNow TV community channels, and supporting over 1,500 community groups each year.
What benefits do co-operative members have?
Joining a co-operative has many benefits. First, you’re supporting and investing in a local community-minded business. That’s a win right there. (When was the last time a big box store or online vendor supported your kid’s sports team or local spray park?)
When you join a co-operative as a member, you have a say in how the co-operative is run. Co-operatives believe in “one member, one vote,” and your opinion really does matter! Members are invited to our annual AGM to see how the co-operative operates and may vote on how profits are redistributed. Members are kept informed of what is happening within the co-operative through member newsletters and reports.
Co-operative members may also receive some direct benefits from a co-operative (such as discounts or dividends). In a not-for-profit service co-operative like Access Communications, all profits are reinvested into the communities we serve through service upgrades, community channels, and community sponsorship and support, all to make a difference for all of our community members.
You can join Access Communications Co-operative today by clicking here. Our memberships are $1 per year for individuals or $5 per year for community organizations.
Our co-operative principles:
The seven international co-operative principles are guidelines by which every co-op in the world practices its values.
• Voluntary and Open Membership: Co-operatives are open to everyone who wants to join, as long as are willing to accept the responsibilities of membership – which are different for every co-op.
• Democratic Member Control: Co-operatives are controlled by their members who actively participate in making decisions. Co-ops make decisions based on “one member, one vote.”
• Member Economic Participation: Members contribute money to the co-op and make decisions about how the money within the co-op is used. Sometimes profits are used to make the co-op better, sometimes the profits are given back to the members (based on how much they have used the co-op), and sometimes profits are used for other things that the members decide on.
• Autonomy and Independence: Co-ops are controlled and led by their members. If they work with others, including governments, they only do it if their members still control their co-op.
• Education, Training and Information: Co-ops provide education and training for their members, Board of Directors, and employees. They tell people - especially young people - about co-ops and what co-ops do.
• Co-operation among Co-operatives: Co-ops work together and support each other.
• Concern for Community: Co-ops do things to build and support their communities in ways their members think are important.
https://www.myaccess.ca/about-access/membership (Learn about becoming a member of Access Communications Co-operative)
https://sask.coop/learn-about-co-ops/about-co-ops/what-is-a-co-op (Learn more about co-operatives in Saskatchewan here)
https://canada.coop/co-op-week-2022 (Learn more about Co-op Week and co-operatives in Canada)