City of Vancouver as Cooperative City

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* Report: The Co-operative City. Social and economic tools for sustainability. John Restakis. BC Co-operative Association, June 2011


Renewable Energy

a) A Mecca for Green Enterprise 4

- BC Clean Knowledge Co-op 5

b) Eliminate Dependence on Fossil Fuels - NEUs 7

- WindShare Co-op 8

c) Green building design and construction 10

d) Co-op Housing 11

==Affordable Housing== 12

a) Land Stewardship 12

- Toronto Islands Residential Community Trust 13

b) Redeveloping Existing Co-op Housing 13

c) Conversion of Rental Properties 14

d) Seniors Housing 14

Life Lease Co-op 14

Equity Co-op 15

- Ambleview Place Housing Co-op, West Vancouver 15

Car Sharing and Sustainable Transportation

Food security and local food systems

a) Gardens in Schoolyards 18

b) Hub System for Local Producers 18

c) Pocket Markets 18

Arts and Culture

a) Marketing Co-ops 19

b) Co-op Galleries & Artist-run Centers 20

c) Co-operative Creative Space 20

d) Artist Live/Work Co-ops 20

Social Inclusion

- Social Co-ops and Social Care

- Social Co-ops – background 21

Co-operation, Community, and the Sustainability Mission


Executive Summary

The City of Vancouver is currently engaged in an unprecedented effort to make sustainability the driving force that will define what the city aspires to and how the city operates. This vision of sustainability has prompted the City to rise to the front rank of cities promoting sustainability and to declare that by the year 2020, Vancouver will be recognized as the world’s Greenest City. It is a bold and inspiring vision and one that rests, in large part, on the means by which the City engages its citizenry in realizing this ambitious goal.

This paper argues that a key element in making this vision a reality is the adoption of social technologies that both embody and advance the social values and relationships that are implicit in the City’s sustainability goals. It argues that co-operation is chief among these and central not only to making sustainability the foundation for the growth of key sectors and the provision of essential services, but also a key to greatly improving the quality of life in our cities. Sustainability is not just about the impact of our way of life on the carrying capacity of our ecosystems. It’s also about whether our social and economic institutions enable a life of dignity and worth for all our citizens.

It is also important to note that while the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City initiative has sparked the drafting of this paper and many of the examples cited relate to Vancouver, the arguments that are presented and the examples that are shown are equally applicable to other municipalities with an interest in exploring co-operative solutions that mobilize citizens around sustainability goals.

The co-operative movement has a long history in the effort to place economic goals within the larger frame of social values and collective benefit. This principle is at the heart of the sustainability idea. The co-op movement was founded on the principle that economics must serve social ends. This is one reason co-operatives have made a profound contribution to the advancement of sustainability goals in such areas as affordable housing, transportation, the development of clean energy, the promotion of arts and culture, the protection of local food systems, and the advancement of social inclusion for vulnerable and marginalized people. More than this, co-operatives provide an important means for municipalities to mobilize the communal values and aspirations of its citizens for the attainment of common goals. We argue that by so doing, the City not only encourages the participation of its citizenry in its sustainability vision, it also fosters the creation of lasting social institutions that can carry on this vision independently of the City itself.

In this paper, we propose a long-term partnership between the City of Vancouver and the co-operative and credit union sector for the support of the City’s sustainability agenda in a number of key areas:

a) Renewable Energy

b) Affordable Housing

c) Food Security and Local Food Systems

d) Arts & Culture

e) Social Inclusion

For each of these areas, the paper outlines specific examples of how the co-op model is being used in ways that complement the City’s own sustainability goals. In most cases, the models include a direct role for the municipality and the basis for a strategic partnership with the co-op sector.

The paper concludes with a series of recommendations on how the City of Vancouver might move forward in the exploration of these models adapted to the context of Vancouver.

Chief among the recommendations is the proposal that a formal partnership be established between the City of Vancouver and the co-op community for the advancement of the City’s sustainability goals as a legacy project for the UN International Year of Co-operatives in 2012.

We believe the time is right for co-ops and credit unions to mobilize their considerable expertise and resources for the realization of a vision that is in keeping with both the ideals and the practices of the co-operative movement in BC. Co-operatives and credit unions are major contributors to the unique quality of life in Vancouver, as they are in many other cities. In everything from environmental protection to affordable housing and ethical social investing, co-ops and credit unions have become national leaders in their fields. The Co-operative City project is a unique opportunity for both the City and the co-op movement to come together in the promotion of co-operation as a means for realizing a sustainability agenda that can be a world model for the engagement of citizens around a compelling vision that enriches us all.


The Co-operative City

John Restakis:

"Cities are a product of co-operation. Their character, how they function, and the quality of life they offer is perhaps the most telling expression of a society’s capacity to transmute personal goals and individual interests into a common life, a sense of community that in turn gives meaning and depth to individual experience. Even the most dysfunctional cities cannot be sustained without a substratum of co-operation as their foundation. The great cities, the ones that offer the most satisfying quality of life, are those that cultivate in their citizens a capacity for co-operation – a disposition for working together toward common goals that allows cities to do great things. This capacity for co-operation is also called a city’s social capital.

The social capacity for co-operation powerfully affects not only the daily environment in which people live. At a more intimate level it also determines individuals’ sense of connection to others and their feelings of personal security, happiness and wellbeing. In short, a community’s tendency to co-operate is one of the most telling signs of personal and social health we can find.

The co-op sector has a vital role to play in realizing a sustainable vision for the city. Indeed, as democratic, member-owned organizations, co-operatives embody many of the values that underpin the idea of sustainability itself.

Concern for Community, the 7th co-op principle, relates the social role of co-operatives directly to the promotion of sustainable values:

- Co‐ops work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

This paper aims to set out the ways in which co-operation, and more precisely the co-operative model, can be used to address a range of issues that have risen to the top of the City’s agenda in recent years.

It proposes a long-term partnership between the City of Vancouver and the co-operative sector in crafting initiatives that advance strategic initiatives in the following areas:

• The promotion of renewable energy • The strengthening of small business in the green economy • The development of affordable housing • The promotion and protection of arts and cultural industries • The promotion of food security and local food systems • The promotion of social inclusion

Virtually every one of the proposals that are outlined below is currently being used with great success in other jurisdictions and are applicable to municipalities large and small. Their adoption would immediately place Vancouver at the vanguard of cities exploring innovative solutions to these central questions affecting the quality of life in our city. Moreover, the co-op and credit union sector is uniquely placed to share its expertise and resources to a long-term partnership with the city and to collaborate with other stakeholders from business, labour, arts & culture, and the broader social economy to bring these ideas to fruition.

Finally, the pursuit of a sustainability agenda such as that outlined here, offers a unique opportunity to link social inclusion as a component of implementing the solutions outlined in this paper. Economic and environmental sustainability can be a powerful force for the promotion of social cohesion.

The recent announcement by Vancouver City Council to choose a co-op option for the development of affordable housing in the Olympic Village and the selection of the Co-op Housing Federation of BC to manage two of the Olympic site buildings is a most welcome step in this direction. The decision has been warmly received and endorsed by a wide range of groups and it reflects the city’s interest in promoting solutions that draw on the unique strengths of the co-op model in addressing economic issues while also advancing important social goals. This is only one instance of how the co-op sector can work closely with the city in finding progressive solutions to the issues that the City has identified as central to its long-term strategy for sustainability.

There is a wealth of strategic opportunities for closer collaboration between the City and the co-op sector remaining to be explored. The areas outlined below indicate additional ways in which the co-op model can further strengthen Vancouver’s Greenest City agenda while improving the quality of social, cultural, and economic life in the city."

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