Tag Archives: Tanya Gracie

It’s all in the hyphen

3 Nov

On Friday November 2, 2012, on the final day of Co-operatives United I had an incredible experience. I know the International Year of Co-operatives has been an incredible gift for co-operatives and any time I see a publication or product with the IYC logo, or hear about a creative event that a co-operative has done to celebrate I am proud to know that fellow Canadian’s see value in being involved in the Year.

This past week has been the first time that I have travelled outside of Canada during IYC and all week as I have moved through Manchester Central (the Co-operatives United venue) I would see the IYC logo being used by co-operatives large and small from all around the world, and each time I see the logo I am touched knowing that we are all in this together. Yesterday morning I was in a communications session and Mary Lou Schaffer, Retail Co-op Experience Manager with The Co-operators was presenting on their “It’s in our name” campaign, part of which has included the fabulous commercial series using ‘the hyphen’ as a way to show Canadians how The Co-operators is a different type of insurance company and how the co-operative principles are rooted in their business. If you have not seen one of the ads, check this one out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNlLEwvbXzg

During the Q&A period someone from Wales made a comment about how they really liked the commercial series and loved how the hyphen had been emphasized as a link and a point of connection to illustrate the significance of co-operatives. To this comment he added that he now understood why ‘the Canadians had made the effort they did to create an English version of the IYC logo where co-operative is hyphenated’. I am in no way trying to brag but I could not help but smile and know that in some small way I had just received the greatest compliment and a decision that seemed relatively simple at the time has had a significant impact.

It’s all in the hyphen and this week I have seen the incredible role that Canadians have played in the International Year of Co-operatives. That makes me one very proud co-operator!

— Tanya Gracie

Co-operative Living

2 Nov

The Manchester convention centre known as Manchester Central is a very large and expansive space, and this week houses Co-operative United, which includes the ICA Expo—kiosks of co-operatives from different countries all over the world. The Expo flows out into the hallway and adjoining rooms where there are kiosks mainly from more local co-operatives throughout the UK. Mixed within these kiosks are igloo-looking structures that offer a series of workshops called “Big Ideas” to small audiences of 20 or so people. And finally before arriving at the at the main auditorium participants pass through “Co-operative Living”—It is another very large room that has been transformed into a village of all things co-operative. The village looks like a typical English village, complete with a city square in the centre.

Surrounding the square are all of the shops and amenities.


You can experience the travel co-op.


The food co-op with an ongoing series of cooking demonstrations.


Learn about the co-operative schools project taking over the UK, where schools are converted into multi-stakeholder co-operatives with staff, students, parents and members of the local community running the schools and embedding co-operative values into all aspects of teaching and learning.


You can learn about the The Co-operative Group as a farmer, and how they approach sustainability.


And of course what English community would be complete without the pub, and don’t forget it’s a co-operative as well, so you own it!


This space is incredibly lively, there have been street performers and local school groups performing. It also has the feel of a community, with some people just passing through and others taking some time to stop and experience the town.

Oh and of course not a detail was missed. As you enter town, each guest is given a membership card that affords you additional benefits when you visit the various co-operatives.

This is a really great space, full of energy and such a wonderful way for the full spectrum of guests, from local to international to see ‘first-hand’ the applications of co-operatives to our daily lives. As the program states “there is always a lifestyle option that is simultaneously a co-operative option.”

-Tanya Gracie

What does Toad Lane mean to you?

30 Oct

Yesterday, I had the amazing experience of visiting Rochdale and the Rochdale Pioneer’s Museum, a location that co-operators throughout the world know of and view as a centre for the beginning of co-operation as we know it today.

Many know the story and have seen the famous photograph of thirteen of the original members, and we have seen the original shop space at 31 Toad Lane, all of which are inspiring and even more so once you see and are able to stand in the doorway of the very place where it all began but last night I heard the a less well known story, the story of the first female member of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society-Eliza Brierley. Eliza joined the co-operative just 15 months after it opened in March 1846. Her name is in the minute book along with the record of her membership payment. She paid a full 1 pound, which was rare at the time as this was a couple of weeks salary and therefore members would pay a few pence at a time until their complete membership could be paid off. There are no other records about how she continued to be involved in the co-operative or what other contributions she made to the Rochdale community. As Gillian Lonergan, head of heritage resources for the Co-operative Trust was telling me, there may have been other female members in these early days, there were certainly no restrictions against female membership within the Society, but the reality of the times, money was often controlled by the male in the household. Memberships to the Rochdale Society in these early years were most often taken by the male on behalf of the family versus each individual and therefore it is only the name of the male that is listed in the membership roster.

So last night almost exactly 168 years after the pioneers first opened their Rochdale co-operative, as we gathered for remarks everyone was handed a postcard size note with the question on it “What does Toad Lane mean to you?”. Visitors to the Museum have the opportunity to leave their thoughts on this card or on a very cool video message recorder on the second floor.

So let me share what Toad Lane means to me… Toad Lane is a place of inspiration, a place and a symbol of what people can do when they come together, and I would like to think that the motivation within the original pioneers and within Eliza Brierley continue to be relevant motivations that drive co-operators like myself and co-operators throughout the world. The formation of the Rochdale Equitable Pionner society gave voice to ordinary working individuals in Rochdale and this has grown into 1 billion people-co-operative members- around the world having a voice and a way to contribute to the betterment of their lives through social and economic participation. Toad Lane is a symbol of what can happen when dreams are translated into action.

-Tanya Gracie

A Rochdale Pioneers’ Museum photo gallery

29 Oct

There is no substitute for actually seeing the Rochdale Pioneers’ Museum, but here are some photos to give you a glimpse of what is there:

Tanya Gracie, CCA’s International Year of Co-operatives manager, demonstrates what the original Rochdale co-op store looked like

Rochdale Mayor James Gartside was front and centre at today’s event

The colour of the upstairs exhibit cases is familiar…even though they were designed before the International Year of Co-operatives logo was announced

Kathy Bardswick, president & CEO of The Co-operators, was one of several Canadian co-operators who attended the museum re-launch

A panel on financial co-operatives pays tribute to Alphonse and Dorimène Desjardins

Old meets new: this gizmo lets you record your own video messages about the museum

The learning loft features a big screen and lots of room for educational activities

Co-operators from around the world  held a moment of silence in tribute to the Rochdale Pioneers

Denyse Guy, CCA’s executive director (left) and your intrepid blogger in front of the museum

–Donna Balkan