Op-ed from Guy Cormier, President and CEO of Desjardins Group

Since being elected president of Desjardins Group in 2016, I've met with thousands of young people. Many of them have overcome obstacles that made them stronger and more resilient. Many are inspiring agents of change. Like us, many of them have been searching for a business model that's more inclusive, community-based and environmentally-conscious. They need help achieving their goals.

Together, we can make a difference for these young people. That's why Desjardins is committing $50 million a year to youth initiatives in communities across Quebec and Ontario. 
Co-op Week is in full swing, so I'd like to shine a spotlight on a few cooperatives founded and operated by young people. 

Fédération québécoise des coopératives en milieu scolaire operates as COOPSCO. It's owned by nearly 400,000 members, most of whom are university students. It represents 60 cooperatives that run bookstores and cafeterias in about 100 educational institutions. 

ALTE Coop is a workers' cooperative founded in Montreal in 2017 by eight engineering graduates. Its mission: help companies design and incorporate affordable green technology. They focus on environmentally sustainable projects supporting food and energy independence. ALTE Coop gives back 60% of its surplus earnings to the community and 40% to its members. 

The Woodnote is the first student housing coop in Montreal. When it opens in July 2020, it will house 144 Concordia University undergrads in 90 units ranging from studios to four-bedroom apartments. Rent in this dynamic, democratic housing cooperative just across from La Fontaine Park will be 10% to 20% below market.

Caravane Coop is a safe, affordable training venue in Limoilou for about 450 of Quebec City's professional and amateur circus artists, most of whom are young people. This innovative coop was founded by 15 young people in 2016 to give circus artists a place to build a sense of community.

Shop à Légumes.coop is a farming coop in Saint-Esprit in Lanaudière. It grows a wide variety of herbs and vegetables and sells organic veggie baskets to around 450 clients at five delivery points. The cooperative was founded five years ago by three young people with a passion for sustainable agriculture, and it donates its unsold vegetables to the Provision Compassion food bank in Rawdon.

Coopérative du Collège Boréal's 7,000 members run a bookstore serving some 2,000 students on the college's seven campuses in Ontario. They also provide catering for students at the main campus in Sudbury and about 10 local daycares in conjunction with Carrefour francophone de Sudbury. The cooperative has been supporting the French-speaking minority in northeast Ontario for over 20 years.

Businesses with a social mission

Théâtre Parminou was founded in 1973 by graduates of the Conservatoire d'art dramatique de Québec before moving to Victoriaville in 1976. Since it's inception, it has put on over 500 socially thought-provoking performances for more than 2 million theatregoers. 

Cooperatives are more than just businesses--they play a key role in democratic community-building. Hats off to all these cooperatives that support young people, nurture their talents and help them find their place. You make our communities stronger. Thank you for everything you do to educate and empower young people!

For journalists only: Richard Lacasse
514 281-7000, ext. 5553436