SquareKnot: A grassroots worker’s cooperative supporting meaningful employment

Written By Allison Smith, Thrive


SquareKnot is a new worker’s cooperative starting to take shape in Calgary. After chatting with one of the founding members, Chett Matchett,  it became apparent how rewarding and challenging building a cooperative can be, and how necessary it is for meaningful employment.

A worker’s cooperative provides its members with meaningful employment by operating an enterprise that abides by the cooperative principles and core values.  These shared values are focused around community, inclusivity, sustainability, trust and respect.  The main goal is to provide the best possible working conditions for the members and to increase the resiliency of the vibrant Calgary community. Chett says meaningful employment is when work and life seamlessly blend together. “When you wake up in the morning, you’re excited and inspired to make your living by doing the work that you love to do,” she explained.

SquareKnot works on community enhancing projects, with a focus on do-it-yourself workshops. Previous workshops have included alternative medicine, make your own mead and green body care products. The founders love the sense of empowerment that comes from learning, knowledge sharing and skills training that happens during these workshops. Members  currently receive a discount when participating in the DIY workshops, are given the opportunity to engage with the community and the option to facilitate their own workshop. Chett explained that having the opportunity to facilitate a workshop is a great learning opportunity and provides an outlet to share your passion with community members.  After members are paid fairly for their contributions, further funds are focused back into SquareKnot.  These funds then strengthen ongoing projects or kick start new ones that are collectively agreed upon to meet SquareKnot’s values and to contribute to the greater community.

At this early stage there is a lot of discussion on solidifying  a shared vision for SquareKnot. Chett, the Communications and Marketing Manager, says there is no shortage of ideas of what this cooperative could be or turn into over the next few years. With 8 long time friends as the founders, each with different passions and skill-sets, the possibilities are endless. Chett explained that when they come together there are lots of laughs, lots of ideas, and deep rooted inspiring conversations.

Learning the Ins & Outs of Collective Decision Making

As a worker’s cooperative, SquareKnot is managed and democratically controlled by its members. “You can go fast alone, but can go a lot farther if you work together,” Chett says in response to learning about collective decision making. This has been the biggest learning experience. “We all have a lot of passions and enthusiasm,” Chett said. “It’s learning to utilize that energy, and those skill sets to teach others that is difficult to define,” she added.  The founding members were familiar with co-ops mostly in theory, but have experienced a steep learning curve on how to practice the co-op model. To keep decision making collective, with no single leader, they rotate the leadership responsibility for meetings among members.

SquareKnot works with different hubs in the community such as the Sunnyside Market, Community Natural Foods and East Village Collaboratorium. These relationships have been easy to make, strong and useful. “In general, people are very excited that there is a small grassroots co-op trying to make its way in Calgary,” Chett explained.  SquareKnot has seen the benefit and importance of local supporting local and continues to build these valuable connections.

Chett said it takes patience, an open mind and a deep desire to create meaningful work for not only yourself, but for all those involved.  “If we all work, in small ways and large, we can co-create a society that can meet its own needs without diminishing the resources of future generations, strengthen ties between community members and foster more space for creativity, connection and joy.”  Chett explained.

Learn more about SquareKnot and stay tuned for upcoming workshops, here: http://squareknotcoop.com/

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