Co-operatives First formed in 2016 as an outcome of a 2-year research project at the University of Saskatchewan’s Centre for the Study of Co-operatives. The Co-op Innovation Project – funded by Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) - identified a need for co-operative business development in rural and Indigenous communities across western Canada, as well as a clear lack of awareness of the co-operative business model in these communities. (Read the CIP Report HERE). 

To address this challenge, and to leverage the many opportunities for co-operative business development, FCL committed $5 million over five-years to provide start-up funding for Co-operatives First.

“Looking at various approaches to co-operative business development around the world the Plunkett Foundation stood out,” says Co-operatives First Board Chair, Vic Huard. “The vision, values and clear operational structure Plunkett has demonstrated over time, and the many successes it has achieved, helped us make the decision to model ourselves after the organization.” 

In many ways, Co-operatives First is Canada’s version of the Plunkett Foundation. Since forming last year, Co-operatives First has been hard at work inspiring communities to explore opportunities to encourage business development at a community level through the co-operative business model and Plunkett’s Inspire, Explore, Create and Thrive model is proving effective. 

“At present, we’ve held numerous Inspire events across western Canada and are exploring dozens of development opportunities,” says Co-operatives First Executive Director, Audra Krueger. “Much of this exploration and development is inspired thanks to the Plunkett Foundation and the strong model they have shared with us.” 

From traditional retail outlets in northern indigenous communities, seniors housing in southern rural communities and opportunity investment co-operatives across the region, rural and indigenous communities are listening, engaged and interested in exploring innovative co-operative solutions to local challenges.