Knives and forks, a community investment co-op.

In my role at Vancity, I think a lot about an inclusive, sustainable and also vibrant local economy. And I am a hypocrite.

Oh, I’m not alone, all my colleagues and peers are hypocrites too.

We support local businesses. Especially businesses that create a local food economy, hire people with barriers to employment, support new Canadians as they settle so they can be productive and happy in their new country, help companies trying to reduce the carbon emissions they put into the environment and help people reduce the carbons they emit in their lives.

Why are we hypocrites? Our personal investments can’t be put into these kinds of companies. Instead, at best, our mutual funds can screen out companies whose ethics we disagree with. But you can’t screen out everything we disagree with or there’d be almost nothing left to invest in. Big banks? No thanks. Oil and gas? Uh-uh. Resource extraction? No way.

Assuming we’re all investing in socially responsible investments, we’re investing in national and multi-national companies that are moving along a spectrum towards greater sustainability. That’s better than putting our hard-earned money capitalizing companies that we don’t support, endorse or whose practices we actively disagree with. But the government says we can’t invest in the local food market down the street trying to bring local food to our community. (No one sums this up better than Michael H. Shuman.)

The government says we can go to the casino down the road and gamble away our life savings. Sure, that’s allowed. But putting some retirement savings into a local business we can touch and shop at and support? That’s verboten.

Until now.

12072555_1168714549823067_2646994795263451844_nSay hello to the Knives and Forks Community Investment Co-op – it’s the newest co-op that I’m a member of. It uses the co-operative structure to allow ordinary people (aka: unaccredited investors) to invest increments of $2,400 into local businesses after becoming a co-op member for a $100 membership share purchase. Knives and Forks focuses on local businesses involved in the local food economy. Restaurants, growers, producers, value-add suppliers, and so on.

It’s a needed addition to our options as local BC citizens trying to support the businesses that we believe in. A central tenet of investing is to invest in companies whose products you use and enjoy. As much as I love Apple and enjoy their products and am proud of their major leaps in environmental sustainability, I don’t know them in the same way that I know my local, organic grocer that I go to every week and can chat with and ask for products that are relevant to me and my family. Or a local butcher, fishery co-operative, raspberry farm, etc…

That’s the best kind of investment.

Originally published on the Co-op Water Cooler.

Launch of the Co-op Water Cooler.

We are stronger together.

Co-op Water Cooler

We co-ops are a splintered bunch. Credit Unions tend to be isolated from the rest of the co-op world, food co-ops can be distinct from housing co-ops, who don’t know the electric co-ops, who don’t really interact with worker co-ops.

And yet society needs us. We are a big part of the solution to what ails our world of growing inequality, a polluted and warming environment, lack of access to local, healthy food, and jobs that don’t pay a living wage. And to transform our society to one that starts to heal these issues, we as cooperators need to be more connected. We need to learn from each other, engage, debate, discuss, and meet up.

So I am very exited to help launch the new Co-op Water Cooler. My hope is that this site can be part of the connectivity. I look forward to all the discussions we’re going to have with cooperators far and wide.

Hello and welcome!

Guest appearance on co-op radio.


I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been wanting to be a guest on Robin Puga‘s local radio show, Each For All for some time now. It’s a show on Vancouver’s co-op radio station about, you guessed it, co-ops.

Well tonight was my lucky night, because I was invited to be on the show as the Board Chair of Modo along with our great CEO, Nathalie Baudoin to speak about car sharing, the co-operative model and where we’re going.

It was archived for your listening pleasure, so check it out… (Note: the archive of the show has expired.)