Bringing a co-op to life

UWinnipeg business students to learn from teenage entrepreneurs

Art by Kiana Lavallee

Art by Kiana Lavallee


WINNIPEG, MB –In a bit of a twist, twelve entrepreneurial high school students are coming to The University of Winnipeg on Friday, November 20, 2015 to teach business students how to develop a co-operative.  Thanks to Manitoba Cooperative Association’s technical assistance, the Children of the Earth high school students established their own Aboriginal Student Co-op Project in 2014 and have been marketing and selling their arts and crafts since with more than $4,200 in sales to date. Following the conference, they will be able to demonstrate their business skills by holding an Art Sale & Show in Riddell Hall Cafeteria from 12 pm to 3 pm.

In partnership with UWinnipeg’s Business Chair of Co-operative Enterprises, Dr. Simon Berge, the Manitoba Co-operative Association, and SEED Winnipeg, the high school and university students, who are enrolled in co-op studies, will co-mingle at a one day workshop on campus.

“The interchange between students from the Children of the Earth high school and the University of Winnipeg is a great opportunity to learn from each other,” said Berge. “The high school students can share their valuable knowledge on developing an art co-operative, while UWinnipeg students can share their post secondary experiences. Both groups benefit from this interchange and it brings the two communities closer together.”

The high school students will participate in a panel discussion using a circle format, a traditionally Aboriginal teaching format, to facilitate discussion on the successes and challenges of developing an art co-op.

“We are proud to be a part of the development this after-school program offering our students new skills and hands on experience while participating in the creation and operation of our Student Co-op,” said Art Teacher Cindy Flett, and  Jackie Dolynchuk Community Support Worker, Children of the Earth.  “Our students voluntarily cooperate for our mutual social, economic and cultural benefits, while helping Omazinibii’igeg market its arts. Omazinigii’igeg is a student collective of our young and talented artists who support each other to further their artistic development and share art supplies”.

“The students are committed to helping others start co-ops or develop businesses that give back to the community, said Jesse Gair, Manitoba Cooperative Association’s Youth Program Coordinator. “They are excited to share their knowledge and experiences and to learn from others.”

The co-op movement was born during upheaval of the Industrial Revolution in 1844 England with the idea that ordinary people could pool their resources to their mutual benefit. That led to a global co-operative movement, with the first member-owned credit union appearing in Manitoba in St. Malo in the 1930s. Today, there are more than 400 Manitoba co-ops serving 800,000 members in all facets of life from grocery stores to financial services to gas bars.

Manitoba Cooperative Association (MCA) is a provincial association of cooperative organizations, created by its’ members to enhance and support the development of a united, growing and influential cooperative movement in Manitoba. Since 2014, MCA offers the student cooperative program to Manitoba high schools, a program that is supported by Federated Co-operatives Limited, the Cooperative Community Strategy, the Cooperative Promotion Board, and Neighbourhoods Alive!

UWinnipeg’s Business Chair in Co-operative Enterprises is unique in Manitoba, established in 2013 with grants from the Province of Manitoba’s Ministry of Housing and Community Development, Red River Cooperative Limited, Federated Co-operatives Limited, Co-operators Canada, Arctic Cooperatives Limited, Credit Union Central of Manitoba and Assiniboine Credit Union.  It is located in, and affiliated with UWinnipeg’s Business and Administration Department. The Chair promotes the teaching of, and research into co-operative enterprises in Canada through public lectures, seminars, teaching and research.

Children of the Earth High School opened in Winnipeg’s North End in 1991, delivering a high quality education that incorporates Aboriginal perspectives into all academic classes, enriching the Manitoba Curriculum. Children of the Earth believes in holistic education which addresses the physical, academic, social and spiritual well-being of all students.

SEED Winnipeg Inc. is a non-profit agency that works to reduce poverty and help renew Winnipeg’s inner city, by helping people start small businesses and save money for future goals.

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Diane Poulin, Senior Communications Specialist, The University of Winnipeg

P: 204.988.7135, E:



Jesse Gair, Program Coordinator, Manitoba Cooperative Association

P: 204.770,4856 E:



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