In 2022, Vancity invested $1.55 million to strengthen the Canadian co-operative sector. The funds were disbursed as multi-year grants to co-operatives and social-purpose enterprises throughout Canada and our communities. One of the recipients is Solid State Community Industries in Surrey, British Columbia.
Solid State is a worker co-operative developer for “youth (under-35) from racialized migrant and refugee backgrounds,” says WeiChun Kua, Coop Community Organizer. Over the past seven years they have supported the development and launch of 17 co-operatives in operation, with more than 150 members from 37 identified national backgrounds.
Solid State offers resources to develop and support co-operatives for systemically underserved communities that face language barriers and precarious employment. Cohorts have access to skills-training, mentorship, working space, and co-op development support.
Vancity is providing a multi-year grant to Solid State, which “gives us a chance to build a relationship and meaningfully understand the systematic barriers that exist. It also allows us to identify opportunities, beyond financial support, that may be available,” explains Kam Sandhu, from Vancity’s community investment team.
“Vancity helps fund our co-op development team - a group of five staff members that helps people who come through Solid State to reach their goals,” explains WeiChun.
Improving access to finance is a catalyst for fostering economic equity. That's why Vancity directs its community partnership funding towards organizations that stand to gain the most from enhanced financial inclusion. In this way, we are able to promote economic inclusion and diversity in the co-operative sector.
Beyond developing enterprises, unique to Solid State is that all staff and cohorts eat together every time they meet.
“Gathering and eating together is foundational to our success and working well together. The centerpiece of our space is a big table and a kitchen for communal meals. This is our foundation; it fortifies us when life and business get hard,” explains Matt Hern, Co-Director.
With the goal to build Solid State as a co-operative of co-operatives, there is constantly an increasing group of co-ops under their umbrella and their profile in Surrey continues to grow. As a measure of success, many of Solid State’s staff are regularly invited to speak at significant community events, sit in on municipal table discussions, and serve as consultants to decision-making bodies in Surrey. Most importantly, Matt shares that, “many of our youth are stepping into very visible community leadership roles.”
Among the co-ops developed at Solid State (who also Vancity members) are Ethos Lab and the Black Arts Centre. Another cohort is Climate Recentered, formed to recenter the voices in the climate movement to racialized people. One of the founders, Naisha Khan, is a youth climate activist who is also instrumental in explaining the benefits of a co-op:
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