Have you noticed that the co-op principles get more challenging the further you go down the list? "Co-operation among Co-ops" and "Concern for Community" are the last two of the seven co-op principles, and they are the ones that are often hardest to integrate into our co-op structures. Many of us may put them into practice as individuals, but how do we encourage them as co-ops?
View Court was faced with exactly that problem. In the past we've had an impact outside the co-op: a suite set aside for people with AIDS in the 90s, supporting an investment fund for women entrepreneurs and helping Ontario co-ops fight regressive legislation. These wonderful initiatives were individual and of limited duration. How could we make something more likely to happen? Our approach was to support neighbours and members to help them realize their visions when they fit with ours.
We are fortunate to have secure, affordable homes and be part of a larger co-operative movement. We are also situated in a geographic community with neighbours all around us. We have some responsibility for the quality of our neighbourhood and want "sustainable development" in our community, not just in our housing co-op.
Our strategy for action on this principle was to establish a Community Building Fund to support neighbourhood activities that help make our community a better place for us all. It's open to those within a block radius of us. The funds can be used for activities or projects that make our community a better place to live for us all, where money will enable a community development initiative eg. arts and cultural, co-op days, street parties, traffic calming, local asset mapping, community engagement, gardening or street greening.
We have also been less successful at "co-operation amongst co-operatives," working with other co-ops to strengthen the co-op movement and influence policy at federal, provincial and municipal levels.
Our strategy for action on this principle was to establish a Strengthening Co-ops Fund to support member activities that help build the co-op movement. Our primary interest is housing, but we recognize that the co-operative movement extends far beyond housing to embrace a huge number of interrelated social, cultural and economic initiatives.
View Court Housing Co-op members can apply The funds can be used to support activities or projects that strengthen the co-operative movement eg. organizing public panels, meetings or discussions, preparation and presentation of policy briefs, intervention in municipal, regional, provincial or federal policy agendas to further the interests of co-ops, or co-operation with other co-ops on similar activities.
These funds can really only be used to complement an idea or initiative that exists, they don't compensate for salaries or honoraria, just out of pocket expenses. But, if a member or neighbour has a great idea that fits, View Court will help make their vision a reality. We shall see if they are utilized in the ways they are intended...