For years, I’d been looking for examples of co-operatives and credit unions excelling at engaging youth. It turns out, Irish credit unions are among the best in the world at attracting young members, staff, and elected officials. In 2014 I did my Master’s research on this topic, which the Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives later turned into a publication. This blog post presents some key learnings and details from that research, which I hope will provide some useful ideas for co-operatives and credit unions that want to increase youth involvement in their co-ops.

Tuesday, 02 March 2021 15:51

Why it is OK to fail sometimes.

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Last month, I talked about how making changes to any part of your life is a pretty great thing to work towards. It really is never a waste of time or energy to do so.  Change and growth are good things. But what if you are making those changes, or at least attempting to do it, and it just doesn’t work out… What if you fail?

It is alright if you fail.

I repeat: It is alright to fail. 

You cannot hear this enough. Failing is okay. This is not something that we usually tell each other and something that we definitely do not tell children. We don’t often want failure, we want successes. Getting a failing math mark, or missing that goal in your soccer game, or not passing your driver test on the first try might seem like the end of the world, but they don’t have to be.

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, it was the most unbelievable thing to let myself fail. I was in Drama 12, with Mrs. Lewis, my FAVOURITE teacher ever, and I was failing, in the most dramatic way possible, at improvising. Improv does not come naturally to me. You have to let go of control, trust your group, and feel free enough to fail. Being the control freak that I generally am, this is an exercise in EXCRUTIATING pain. I hate letting go. I hate failing. What if I look foolish? What if this doesn’t make sense? WHAT IF I’M TRYING TO BE FUNNY AND NO ONE LAUGHS? I learned that I had to be allowed to fail, because that is the only way to get better. If I look foolish, then I may get laughs. If it doesn’t make sense, then it is silly, and silly is funny. If you are trying to be funny, often you aren’t funny at all! So by forcing myself to be in control, I was actually failing. 

If you aren’t able to let yourself fail sometimes, then how do you learn? Failure is not an ending. It is a beginning. If you passed your driving test, great, but the person who has to re-take it will practice that parallel parking a hundred more times and will get better and better at it.  They will be able to parallel park a bus when they are finished with all of that practice. 

Every time you try something new, you have the opportunity to fail.  Accepting failure is important at a place like summer camp.  If you are new to the camp experience, of course you have the chance to fail. A glorious chance to screw something up. Whether it is a new game, a new craft, or learning to work in a new community of people, (Hello Co-op Camp!), learning how to communicate, learning how to compromise, you will perhaps fail a little at first. You will have to expect to make a few mistakes and accept that you have done so. Simply accept this fact. Do it. 😊 Because once you do, then you can learn from the mistake, and you can learn the successful habit or skill that you need to make the situation better.

When you try something new, to expect to be perfect, to not make one single mistake, is a ridiculous expectation. Simply by holding this belief, you are going to fail, because no one is perfect! A wise person once said to me, “Do you have a belly button? Yes, you do, you are human, now prepare to fail 10% of the time.” 

Correcting failures leads to personal growth. When you have the right attitude, failure blossoms into learning. Camp is the perfect place for this kind of learning too, because no matter what, you are in the camp bubble, and you know you are supported and encouraged the whole time. We are all in this together, and if there is anywhere in the world that it is safe to fail and learn, it is Co-op Camp.

Monday, 11 January 2021 20:11

Meaningful Changes

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Photo Credit:  The Author in her Grade 9 Yearbook Photo.... YIKES!


Ahhh January!  The month where everyone decides that they need to change their lives and begin fresh.  Diets, Check!  Exercise routine, Check!  Starting a new hobby, Check!  They say that the average resolution lasts 12 days before it is either totally abandoned or modified, and if you are modifying it, it is usually because there has been an element of “failure” involved.  Why do we make these huge, life altering changes because of a day on the calendar?  January 11th is just as effective day to begin a change as January 1st, or even March 23rd for that matter!  An arbitrary day is not what will make you stick to a change, even if it was the inspiration to make the change. 

Sometimes when we want to make a change, there is a reason for it.  We feel inadequate for the situations we are facing, or we see a negative quality in our lives and we want to make it into a positive.  Change is good, change is healthy, and change can be necessary, but you have to work to keep a change going.  Often, we believe that the good intentions are enough to carry us through, and then when we aren’t putting forth the proper effort, and we fail.  We then see it as another shortcoming and that the failure is due to our lack of value or worth. 

When I write these blog posts, I am generally writing them to the youth that I have met at camp.  I am aiming, for the most part, at the teens who have inspired me with their great attitudes and their desire to change the world.  These kids are full of hope, and energy, and a vision for the world they want to live in, and energy (… LOL), and it brings me back to my own time in high school.  I was a bright, happy, and friendly kid, who saw more to her life than what there was at the time.  Growing up in a small Saskatchewan town, sometimes you dream of the bright lights and 24-hour convenience stores of the big city and you want to get there as soon as you can! I was a kid with some big dreams.  None of those dreams are the same dreams that I have today.  My plans evolved and changed as I did, and yet none of that change revolved around a calendar date.

It’s December.  Normally, this month is filled with people around the world preparing for all kinds of celebrations.  Some are buying gifts to give to loved ones. Some are cooking and baking wonderous treats and feasts. Some are writing cards and letters to send out to family and to friends to share the news of the past year with everyone.  This year though, things will look and feel a bit different. 

Unless you have been in a coma since 2019, you are fully aware that we are currently living through a world-wide pandemic.  There is a virus that we all know about that is easy to spread, and easy to catch, and if you get it, it’s a generally unpleasant experience. There are communities and countries that have been hit harder than others by this virus.  Governments have given us public safety policies that have caused some closures and restrictions to protect us.  Locally here in our province, we have been asked to stay home and not gather with anyone who is not our immediate family. We have been told that 5 people or less is the ideal group size.  This is in addition to the other precautions of stay 2 meters apart, wear a mask, wash your hands with soap and water, and when you cannot, use hand sanitizer, and if you are unwell at all, please stay home.  My family as a whole has been lucky to remain healthy through all of this, and I hope that you and your families are healthy and safe as well. It’s because we as co-operative people have a concern for our communities that we are doing all that we can to help slow the spread and keep our communities, our neighbors and our friends safe.

I come from a large family. Christmas when I was a child was a loud, noisy morning.  The cacophony of children laughing and yelling and ripping packages open is a welcome sound in my home still. However, there will not be a gathering of my siblings and our children in my parent’s house this year.  Probably not in your homes either.  No matter what your celebration is this solstice, we are not supposed to be gathering.  So, what should we do? 

Wednesday, 04 November 2020 18:27

The A-Z of Co-op Camp - part 3

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Have you ever gone somewhere and had a whole new language thrown at you? I don’t mean that grade 12 trip to Europe, where they ACTUALLY speak a different language, I mean somewhere where the lingo is just all new?  When I first got to Co-op Camp, I had absolutely no idea what a Warm Fuzzy was, or exactly why people wanted to be “cannibals”. Our final batch of letters covers the new words you may hear at Co-op Camp from R-Z.  Some of these are essential to having a great summer at Co-op Camp!


Rap Sessions

Drop me a sick beat!!!  Well, no, a rap session is not THAT kind of rap.  It is a great way to get to know more about your fellow campers by asking a question and letting everyone give an answer.  If you were a sound, what sound would it be? If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

Rainbow Flag
A seven-colour rainbow flag is a common symbol of the international cooperative movement. The rainbow flag has been the cooperative emblem since 1921 when the International Co-operative Congress of World Co-op Leaders met in Basel, Switzerland to identify and define the growing cooperative movement’s common values and ideals to help unite co-ops around the world.

After some experiments with different designs, a famous French cooperator, Professor Charles Gide, suggested using the seven colours of the rainbow for the flag. He pointed out that the rainbow symbolized unity in diversity and the power of light, enlightenment and progress. The first co-op rainbow flag was completed in 1924 and was adopted as an official symbol of the international cooperative movement in 1925.

Like the rainbow, this flag is a symbol of hope and peace. The seven colours from flags around the world fly in harmony.

Honorable Mentions: Recreation, Rest

Friday, 30 October 2020 16:19

Unique Co-operatives in Saskatchewan, Part 2!

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Saskatchewan has so many interesting co-operatives. I am always amazed at the many different types of co-operatives we have here. In my first blog post on this topic, we looked at several unique types of co-ops and I’m back with another list of a more different kinds of co-ops! In this blog post, we’ll take a second armchair tour of interesting and unique co-operatives found around Saskatchewan. 

Friday, 23 October 2020 19:39

What Co-op Camp Has Given Me

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We asked a long-time Co-op Camper, Staffer, and Program Assistant, Kallin Kehrig, to tell us about what Co-op Camp has given him in his life.  I met this young man in January of 2019 and he made a lasting impression on me.  Here he is, in his own words, telling us about his experience.


When I first heard of Co-op Camp I was young, shy, and above all, I did NOT want to go to this new summer camp my parents had signed me up for.  Pulling up into a parking lot full of people I didn’t know was terrifying, especially because a handful were wearing silly costumes.  I remember asking my mom if I really had to go to this weird new summer camp.  It turns out that I did, in fact, have to go to this new summer camp.  The first words I told my mom when I got back from camp?  “Mom, I have to go back next year!”

Wednesday, 30 September 2020 20:59

Enterprise Risk Management… Twenty Years and Counting

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*GUEST POST* We asked Karen McBride MBA, ORMP to share some of her insights about enterprise risk management for co-operatives and credit unions.

If you think about it, co-operatives were created to reduce the risk that individuals would not survive lean times and harsh conditions. By working together, people discovered creative ways to pool their time, money, and talent to not only help each other survive, but eventually thrive to build communities, social systems, and nations. This powerful process continues to this day – the transformational power of co-operatives is especially evident in developing countries.  

Once launched, credit unions and co-ops quickly got busy managing the risks that could damage their bottom line or threaten their survival – risks such as theft, fraud, credit losses, and damage from fire or natural disaster. Up until about twenty years ago, risks such as these were largely regarded as individual events. 

Tuesday, 01 September 2020 20:39

The A to Z of Co-op Camp Part 2

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Have you ever gone somewhere and had a whole new language thrown at you? I don’t mean that grade 12 trip to Europe, where they ACTUALLY speak a different language, I mean somewhere where the lingo is just all new?  When I first got to Co-op Camp, I had absolutely no idea what a Warm Fuzzy was, or exactly why people wanted to be “cannibals”. Our second batch of letters covers the new words you may hear at Co-op Camp from J-Q.  Some of these are essential to having a great summer at Co-op Camp!


There are so many interesting types of co-operatives in Saskatchewan. Of course, I love ALL co-operatives and credit unions. But there are some pretty unique co-operatives here. Since we’re all not traveling too far this year, this blog post will take you on an armchair tour of just some of these co-ops around the province that you may not have heard of before, as well as a few examples of industries that have a lot of co-operatives here. 

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