The week of October 16th, 2017 was coop week. It was also the week of Viridian Energy Coop’s annual retreat. You would have been hardpressed to find one of our members as we are all hunkered down in the Barn of Stowell Lake Farm on Saltspring Island, taking the time to look at the big picture. It’s our rare chance to remove ourselves from the day-to-day business, check in with each other, review what we have achieved, set targets and make sure we stay true to not only our mission and vision but to our cooperative roots.
Cooperatives are based on the values of equity, self-help, self-responsibility, solidarity, equality and democracy. They also have the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
Coops are unique in that they are all globally connected through a series of 7 guiding principles that allow them to put these values into practice. These principles are (taken from the International Cooperative Alliance):
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2. Democratic Member Control
Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. one member, one vote
3. Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members.
5. Education, Training and Information
Co-operatives provide education and training for their members so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6. Co-operation among Co-operatives
Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7. Concern for Community
Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
As we sat around the fire and talked, the days stretched into nights and for 3 days we discussed and built our plan with these values and principles at our core. We are approaching our 6th year of operation and this fall we have reached a milestone: 1MW of solar (3650 solar panels) sales and installations. (a megawatt of solar is enough energy to power 100 homes full-time for the next 30 years) It’s a big achievement for any company but what is more important for us is how we got there, that we did this as a coop and with the support of our communities.
For us, we’re all in. Like others who have drank the coop kool-aid, we believe coops are a major part of the solution to economic, social and environmental issues we face globally today. We’ve set our sights high and working hard to make change.