Indigenous Co-operative Initiative

The Indigenous co-operative initiative (ICI) aims to provide awareness, education and coaching to First Nations and indigenous organizations in setting up co-operative business structures. The goal is to de- mystify the concept and promote the benefits of co-operative business models and provide support to First Nations or indigenous groups that want to explore the co-op structure for their business opportunities that better aligns and fits their specific needs, indigenous perspectives, and business goals.

Meeting Request Form


The modern-day co-operative business structure is underutilized in Indigenous communities, but the idea of a co-operative is nothing new for First Nations because in time immemorial Indigenous people have exercised co-operative development and communal approaches to achieve common goals to sustain livelihoods, distribute resources, and develop communities in sustainable, cultural, environmental, social, and economic ways. The western tools of business development using corporations, band owned entities, and limited partnerships are not always flexible enough to meet community expectations and indigenous worldviews for finding solutions to problems that may be unique to a First Nation community.

As such, the Indigenous co-operative initiative was established in partnership between the New Relationship Trust and the B.C Co-operative Association (BCCA) to be a resource for Indigenous people wanting to know about co-ops and how to go about setting one up. The BCCA is a knowledge and resource hub for co-operatives in BC, where co-ops come together to collaborate, network, get support, learn, and contribute knowledge to shape BC’s co-op movement.

What is an Indigenous Co-op?

An Indigenous co-operative is created to meet the specific needs of the First Nation community or its members, not shareholders. This means they can be set up to fill the cultural, social, and economic needs of the communities or groups they serve. The co-ops may be large, small, simple or complex and can serve the whole community or serve particular groups within that community.

Co-ops can provide Indigenous peoples with a distinct values-based, community owned and controlled alternative to what is seen in the public and private sector. Co-ops are a method for Indigenous Peoples to exercise control over the economic, social and cultural activities that affect their lives. Co-ops are unique in that they are globally connected through common internationally agreed upon principles as listed below.

  1. Voluntary and open membership
  2. Democratic member control
  3. Member economic participation
  4. Autonomy and independence 
  5. Education, Training and information
  6. Cooperation among cooperatives 
  7. Concern for community

Examples of Co-operative Business Structures

Some examples of Co-operative Business Structures: 

  • Co-operative grocery store to support access to fresh foods at affordable prices. 
  • Co-operative Commercial Fishery to support sustainable fishing, processing, and vertical supply chain integration.
  • Co-operative Daycare to support affordable daycare in a rural community.
  • Co-operative housing to support affordable housing options.
  • Co-operative artisans to support the marketing and sale of member artist’s work
  • Co-operative community greenhouse to support food cultivation, harvesting and other food security initiatives.
  • Co-operative financial services to support pension benefits, insurance and other financial services for Indigenous peoples.
  • Co-operative wholesale and distribution to support group (bulk) purchasing and distribution.

Initiative Goals

  • Educating and promoting co-operative solutions to the challenges and opportunities facing B.C. First Nation communities.
  • Strengthening and supporting the ability of Indigenous peoples to develop new co-ops.
  • Connect First Nations and Indigenous organizations to resources and co-op capacity building organizations to support their co-operative solutions.

Eligible Applicants

  • B.C. First Nations
  • Indigenous organizations

Support We Offer

  • Virtual meetings, workshops and training
  • Online resources
  • Policy development support
  • Business Plan Support
  • Coaching and guidance on setting up Co-operative

Expression of Interest Form

If you are interested in setting up a cooperative or want to learn more through a presentation or consultation meeting on the various aspects of a Co-operative business structure as well as access to co-operative coaching experts and document resources, please complete the Expression of Interest Form below and we will contact you to arrange a day and time.

Indigenous Co-op Meeting Request

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Contact Us for Support

The Indigenous Co-operative Initiative staff encourage First Nations and other Indigenous organizations to reach out if you have questions, require assistance, or wish to discuss your potential co-op opportunity prior to submitting an EOI. Please contact us at the email address below:

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