Cooperatives: Locally Owned Businesses Build Strong Communities

By Heather MacIntosh

In the social economy, a range of models for social enterprise, cooperatives, and green jobs abound.

El Ceibo is an organization of cocoa farmers in Bolivia that combines all three. El Ceibo not only introduced a fair trade, organic, democratic production model to Bolivia, it is a leading voice in the social economy movement nationally and in South America. The organization consists of over 40 smaller farmer co-ops throughout the Alto Beni region.

El Ceibo buys raw products (cocoa beans) from its participating farmers, produces chocolate in its factory in the migrant city of El Alto, and offers factory jobs to its members and their immediate family members on a rotating basis. Workers in the production section of the factory are on 3-year contract and those in finance, administration, marketing and management have 3-5 year positions. New workers arrive and have cross training between 1 and 6 months, depending on the person and the role.

It’s a model used in other social enterprise as well.  Client-owners bring a unique, shared vision to a business – for example, this Telephone Cooperative in the UK:

What is the potential for these types of models locally?  Could this be applied to a cooperative landscape company which offers organic products and fairly-price services to consumers including fixed income seniors, promotes sustainable practices, and trains and mentors disadvantaged Calgarians?

CONTACT:  Please contact me with any questions or if you’re interested in starting this social enterprise with me!  Heather MacIntosh, 403-284-0318 or

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