Helping rural & Indigenous communities grow & thrive.

Capturing Opportunity. Creating growth.

Opportunities are often hidden in plain sight or disguised as deficits. Capturing an opportunity requires inspiration, recognition, innovation and the courage to see things a bit differently.

At Co-operatives First, we support leaders looking to capture opportunities, inspire others and realize their visions.

Why Co-operatives First?

A co-operative is a business and requires the same level of energy, skill and commitment as any other business. Starting and building a business can be complicated, confusing and frustrating. We’re here to assist with that process.

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Our Process


Inspiring your community.

Looking for inspiration? Our Inspire products are designed to help community leaders identify opportunities. If you’re hoping to encourage economic, business or community development, take a quick look at our Inspire products.



Exploring an opportunity.

Have a specific opportunity to explore? Our Explore products are designed to explore an opportunity and map out the pathway to creating a new business or organization.



Creating a co-operative business.

Looking to incorporate a new business or organization? Our Create products focus on getting you up and running in a way that is best for you.



Helping your business thrive.

On the board or managing an existing co-operative? Our Thrive products offer a variety of tools and resources to help ensure your business continues to grow and thrive.



Building your business.

Our Build products are designed specifically to support you as you develop and grow your new business or organization..


Co-operatives First means business.

Thoughts and success stories

Episode 10: In conversation with Dr. Brett Fairbairn

Dr. Brett Fairbairn has been researching co-operatives for over 30 years; as a Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, he has become…

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Episode 9: Member Engagement

In this episode, Kyle, Dan, and Aasa discuss what member engagement looks like for co-operatives, given how many different types of co-ops – and different…

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3 essential ingredients in successful co-operative start-ups

At its most basic, every co-op needs a champion with a vision, a group with a shared interest and a market for the service or…

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Context and Opportunity: A brief survey of Indigenous Co-ops in Canada

The co-operative business model has been relatively underutilized by Indigenous peoples in western Canada. Corporate structures and limited partnerships have more often been the go-to…

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Episode 8: Five big ideas for leveraging the co-operative advantage in a rapidly changing world

In this episode, Aasa sat down with Dr. Dionne Pohler to discuss her keynote speech from the Saskatchewan Co-operative Association’s 2018 conference. Dr. Pohler’s address…

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Episode 7: The Importance of Board Diversity

In the last episode in our series on board governance, Audra, Kyle, and Aasa talk about the importance of diversity on boards. Having people with…

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Saskatchewan’s Newest Chamber of Commerce

Saskatchewan is getting a new Chamber of Commerce. A group of Indigenous business leaders in Saskatchewan have formed this province’s first Indigenous Chamber of Commerce….

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Episode 6: Dealing with conflict on a board

In this episode, Audra, Kyle, and Aasa tackle what happens when things get contentious on a board. We discuss the kinds of conflict that boards…

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A forward-thinking initiative

Thanks to the generosity, support and forward thinking of the Co-operative Retailing System (CRS) and Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), Co-operatives First was launched in 2016.

Our goal is to initiate a new wave of co-operative business development across rural and Indigenous communities across western Canada.

Innovation based on research

Co-operatives First is based on research conducted with the help and support of rural and Indigenous communities across western Canada, funded by Federated Co-operatives Limited(FCL) and undertaken by a group of researchers from the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan.