We are moving to the next stage of the Co-op Cred program, an innovative community-based system of alternative exchange (i.e. a community currency model) that facilitates supportive work placement opportunities for Parkdale community members while also enabling them to receive and use “co-op credits” to purchase healthy food available at the West End Food Co-op.
As we briefly reported back last year, the second year of the Co-op Cred program – the expansion phase – has explored the effectiveness of the program at the neighbourhood scale. The expansion phase has achieved considerable successes and outcomes. For example, the total number of the participants has grown from 7 participants in the pilot phase in 2013 to 51 participants in the expansion phase in 2014. 26 work placement opportunities (19 new) at 5 different locations – the WEFC grocery store/kitchen, the Sorauren Farmers’ Market, the PARC kitchen, the Greenest City learning garden, and a boarding home backyard garden – have been created.
We are currently finishing up a detailed program evaluation, and are planning to release a summary of evaluation and outcomes soon!
Building on the successes and lessons of the expansion phase, we are moving to the next “integration” phase. And we are very excited to announce that we received a continued support from Metcalf Foundation through its Inclusive Local Economies program’s Opportunity Fund.
From the expansion phase, we learned the potential of the Co-op Cred program that can address the intersection of food security, supportive work, and personal growth – toward a decent working lives. In this next Integration phase, we aim to integrate the Co-op Cred program into wider community economic development and workforce development efforts underway in Parkdale. The key goal is to develop long-term strategies that harness the full potential of the Co-op Cred program as a catalyst for creating a Parkdale workforce development strategy.
To achieve this goal, we are planning to undertake various strategies. For example, we will continue to explore ways to expand work placement opportunities. Furthermore, a key partner, Greenest City, will start its own Co-op Cred program that engages newcomer communities in Parkdale. In addition, we are working to develop local partnerships to establish direct and accommodating transition paths to next steps (such as working at social enterprises and/or local community agencies).
Developing a Parkdale workforce development strategy will be pursued in close coordination with the ongoing community-based economic planning initiative underway in Parkdale, which aims to develop a strategic neighbourhood plan with a focus on community wealth building and decent work.