Multimedia co-op inspires change in industry

A Canadian multimedia co-op is inspiring a positive change in the media industry by placing people before profit.

A Canadian multimedia co-op is inspiring a positive change in the media industry by placing people before profit.

Founded in February 2011, Cooperative Communications is a member-owed co-operative that offers multimedia services for socially progressive businesses and organisations. One of the founders and now the current Creative Director, Benjamin Ryder, was eager to start a new enterprise and thought co-operation was the right way to make a positive difference to society. 

He said: “I found the business world was full of people who justifiably put themselves first, although many times it was at the expense of others. I witnessed people who I respected and trusted lie in the pursuit of their own goals and ambitions.“

Benjamin’s co-operative adventure began with Edmonton Community Powered News (ECPN), a very short-lived Youtube project. He attended and filmed different events around the city trying to involve with and document the community. He met people who shared his values and principles and this inspired him to “put the project into something more practical than a hobby”. 

The idea to start a co-op was inspired by The Vancouver Media Co-op who publishes The Dominion. Benjamin recalled: “When The Vancouver Media Co-op told me they were not expanding I thought I would just start my own co-op, one that was not limited by any journalistic code.”

Founding Cooperative Communications was, according to Benjamin, “one of the most difficult, most challenging and most rewarding processes” he had ever gone through. Throughout the process he received support from The Communitas Group, an Alberta based co-op development group.

The co-op is now a successful enterprise, offering multimedia services for socially progressive businesses and organisations.

Benjamin said: “It is my greatest strength to know that I am part of a team I can rely on. I trust how this business operates and I can put faith into our future. I have never found an environment where I feel as empowered, protected, supported and nurtured as I do now.

"When I meet with clients or speak in public there is such a wealth of strength from knowing that we're doing the right things for the right reasons."

Benjamin added co-ops should play a bigger role not only within the media industry, but also across other sectors as well. He argued a few major players dominate the media and communications industry and co-ops can offer an alternative solution as they operate on a set of ethical values and principles. They also enjoy a higher degree of autonomy than traditional enterprises.

“I think all industries need more co-operatives. I think that we need more balanced media and that we must with the greatest concern keep the internet free.

“For me and the other members of our co-op, it gives us a purpose beyond simply earning an income or working at a job. Co-operatives, I have noticed, seem to offer purpose. So in that sense yes the world industries be it media and communication to agriculture or pharmaceuticals, need more co-operatives.”

Benjamin also said co-ops can help to empower young people. He said: “Creating a co-op, for me has completely changed my life. It has shown me that people can work together and they can be relied upon. I’m excited to wake up and start working, I face challenges on a daily basis that I enjoy and give me a sense of belonging. I have started a company where everyone is equal and there isn’t a boss. Co-operation is the right thing to do, period.”

The co-op will be documenting the Gathering of Alberta Cooperatives in November, a conference lead by ACCA (Alberta Community and Cooperative Association) to mark the International Year of Co-operatives.

Cooperative Communications were also finalists in the National Co-op Challenge. Their video (see below) has already received many votes.

What sectors do you think co-ops should go into next? Write your comments below. 



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