Forming a health and social care co-operative : a case study in a British Columbia community




Dowhy, Laura Jean.

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This case study examines the development of a co-operative to govern a collaboration of health and social service agencies in a town in British Columbia. Community action research was the methodology used to answer the question 'What are the possibilities and issues of co-operative governance for collaboration among nonprofit agencies?' Documents, participant observation, and interviews constituted the data. The analysis is presented in four ways: the chronological stages of development; the way the participants began to act like the co-op they wanted to become; the features of membership in comparison to the seven Principles adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance; and the issues of concern. The findings are that participants established a shared vision, formed new relationships in a network governed as a co-operative, and added new resources to enhance the social capital of the community. A co-operative governance model, newly possible after changes in the BC legislation governing co-operatives, was chosen and put into practice because it was seen as innovative, flexible and egalitarian. This choice indicated a new purpose, to build mutual trust and a sectoral voice within the social economy through co-operative practice. The members expect that their cooperative will help them cope with change by providing a forum for learning and consensus building. The development of the co-op can claim to be health promoting because it built social capital and increased community control of conditions affecting the lives of children, youth and their caregivers.