After Six Months…

As this internship comes to an end, along with the dwindling days of summer, I am forced to reflect on the last few months and on this internship experience as a whole.  My thoughts also lead me to consider the people I’ve met and the relationships built along the way.  I’m curious to see and hear about where we all end up after this.  Will you stay within the co-op sector?  Are you staying on at the co-op you are at now?  Where will we all be a month from now???

Having the privilege of working with the small but mighty team here at On Co-op has opened up the breadth of my hands-on experience tremendously.  It has been invaluable to be able to play a part in so many of the important initiatives coming out of this org.  From preparing everything and anything for the infamous Co-operative Young Leaders (CYL) program, to guiding its progress throughout the summer; facilitating workshops, webinars and training sessions for various On Co-op members; supporting the dissemination of information about the Co-operative high school curriculum “All 4 Each”; to sitting in on the first meetings of the International Year of Co-operatives taskforce for Ontario.  I am so pleased to have been involved in all of these projects and more.

I’ve also noticed the positive reputation that On Co-op holds within the co-op sector throughout Canada, and that is not a bad thing to flaunt when the time comes to search the job market again (actually, I think that time has come and gone!).  But all joking aside, it has been an incredible learning experience to have been placed within such a dynamic and creative group of co-operators 😉  One could only hope to work in this kind of environment throughout their entire career. 

So, will I still be at On Co-op a month from now?  Who’s to say?  But I do know that wherever I am, the skills that I have developed here will be invaluable to me throughout my career path.  And the connections and friendships made during these 6 months will hopefully last well beyond this internship.

So, where has your internship led you? What are your plans?  Where do you hope to be next month?

Keep us all posted.

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Be Polite

The title for this blog is something that I’m sure we’ve heard many times growing up from our parents.

Other than the obvious of, people will like you if you’re polite, being polite will lead you to get what you want. Science ’44 Co-op is currently preparing for their new members for September. Queens, St. Lawrence and RMC students from all over the world will be moving into their new “8 month” homes September 1st, some are already here. They are my “inspiration” for writing this blog.

With numerous forms, contracts, bookings and requests, the Member Service Coordinator and I are working hard to make sure these next few weeks will go as smooth as possible. The only consecutive road blocks we hit are rude comments. I am sure that all of the student members coming in September are nice and kind people, however something they forget the importance of being polite.

People will do a lot more for you if you are polite to them. Genuine please’s and thank you’s will make a difference in getting what you want. If you are trying to find out information from someone or if you need something, please and thank you are the best ways to get what you want.

Remember that you are not the only person that has a request today. Although it may be “urgent” for you, remember to respect the time and scheduling of others. If you show that respect, your urgency will become their importance as well.

Say Hello to people when you see them. Even a smile will brighten someone’s day. It will work out in your favor when you need something from them one day and they will remember your smiles and greetings and will want to lend a helping hand. 

Take a breath. Right now at Science ’44, things are a bit stressful so we all have to remember to take a breath to calm down. If you find yourself in a situation where you are losing your ‘politeness’, take a breath and remember the please and thank you tip. Don’t take frustration out on other people – they will in turn do the same to you.

If you have been a girlfriend you will understand this part, and if you have had a girlfriend you are probably still learning this part. – It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.  After you have taking a deep breath, said please and thank you, and charmed the gate keeper, remember your tone. I have to remind my boyfriend a lot about tone and sometimes I would like to remind the student members. Sarcasm isn’t cute at 20 and above… Please leave that at home. 

I am not polite 100% of the time. And I can honestly say I don’t follow all these tips. 9 times out of 10, I get rude after someone has been rude to me or to a family member/friend/co-worker. The trick is to not lose your cool and remember to pay if forward with your politeness. You’ll be surprised how people change their attitude once you’re a bit more polite to them. 

Thank you.

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Sustainable Community Development

Hello fellow Interns!

We are almost into August and that means that our internship is starting to wind down. This being the case, I am starting to think about the impact that I had on Country Hills in my short time here. At the beginning of my internship I made it my goal to create “sustainable community development” projects.

You may be asking what is sustainable community development? My definition is creating projects that will last beyond my time at Country Hills. It’s never been my goal to create community development initiatives where I simply give members something. It is important to me that members are involved in everything I do from inception to completion. For example, we started a community garden here and instead of going out and doing the work all by myself, it was necessary to create a community garden committee that put in as much work as I did. As I see it, my role as a community development consultant is to give community members a push and hope that the projects starts to snowball and continues to after I leave.

This has proven to be a challenge. Firstly because I had to come to terms with the fact that I can’t control every aspect of the projects I am working on. People will leave the meetings and have different interpretations of the work that is required, or forget completely about the task at hand. This means I have to constantly re-strategize. Secondly, it’s hard to motivate people! For those of you who are doing your internship in a housing co-op you know that the members on the various committees are volunteers.It’s a bit easier to encourage hard work when there is a performance evaluation and a paycheck at stake. It’s a bit harder when people are volunteering.

I often feel like I am just spinning my wheels and I get very frustrated. But then just a small change happens! Nothing huge but a very small step in the right direction is taken and all the work is worth it. I think community development should be frustrating. As a community development consultant you are trying to get a group of people, with different backgrounds and perspectives, to collectively create a project together. There’s no way that happens without frustration.

Only time will tell if the projects I started will go beyond my time at Country Hills, but I know the experiences I have had here will carry on with me.

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A Poem

The organics-only homeless man

accepts nothing but change,

refusing conventionally-grown apples,

taking up his post outside

of the local fair trade coffee shop.

He wanders amid the stalls of the

Saturday morning market,

almost blending in among

the neo-hippies, his scraggly

beard detracting attention from

the saggy seat of his pants

and holey sweater.

He sleeps au naturel, by the

cycles of the sun and moon,

toting all his worldly possessions

in a brown paper Whole Foods bag.

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So much to do, so little time…

With the season well underway, we here at the Gay Lea Dairy Heritage Museum have come out of the gates running. June 2011 admission numbers shattered the numbers from June 2010, and we are well on our way to doing the same for July. Even with people banging down the doors here, and many tours and interaction being done, I still have many other projects to work on while carrying out my internship.

I am a very creative individual, and being such, I was very excited to

Covering a manikin head with fabric is not as easy as it me

be given the opportunity to create and install some exhibits here at the museum. To date, I have completed the “Silverwood’s Hat,” and the “Jan Verdun, The Milk Bootlegger” displays. I am currently working on the “Carnation” exhibit, only having to install it for it to be complete.

Another project we are working on is our storage project. This project consists of us taking our many, many shelves of open storage and condensing the various artifacts into boxes, while leaving the larger items out on the freshly lined shelves. In doing this, we are creating more space so we can move more artifacts into our storage and organize them. This will make exhibit creation a breeze. Also, in accordance with museum principles, there should always be at least one changing exhibit within a museum. This allows visitors to view the full collection, one bit at a time, and they do not become overwhelmed with wall to wall artifacts.  The storage project will allow for more room and change. Plus, it’s a great way for me to examine and become familiar with the whole collection!

Hope everyone is doing well at their respected internships. Our internship is quickly coming to an end. Has anyone’s position been extended? Has anyone started looking for employment for September?



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Office Job = Health Risk?!

I was listening to my favourite morning radio station towards the end of June and was informed of something rather disturbing for someone in my employment position. I thought I would share this information since it may affect many of you in your internships right now and during future employment opportunities. This is not to scare, but to inform you of a seemingly benign health risk. So much for a light-hearted blog that I was hoping to write this month…

The radio clip went something like this: ‘sitting for work causes premature death.’ Yikes! I am sitting as I hear this on my hour long drive to work, where I will be sitting approximately 7.5 more hours only to drive home for an hour again, eat dinner sitting at the table… whew! There is not much time for physical activity during my week days with a two plus hour drive every day and an early bed-time. I hate to say, but I stopped going to the gym when I began this job, although I still do manage to go for a half hour walk with my dog almost every morning before work and try to spend my weekends doing physical activity. Strawberry picking is a favourite activity these days. Plus, there are always so many chores that are put off until the weekend, my own gardening, etc. But even if I did still go to the gym and continue to increase my physical activity level, apparently I am still at risk.

The study, as reported on CBC News, says that people who sit a lot are at risk of premature death “regardless of their fitness levels”. Sitting is more problematic than other forms of sedentary positions, the study seems to suggest. This is because of the disturbance sitting causes for metabolism. This is why office workers are at such risk, sitting. We are always told that a lack of physical activity is not good for our health, but this new study states that even if we are active outside of work, we can still be at risk if we are not giving our bodies a break from sitting so much.

So be sure to take all of the breaks you can. Get up and go to the water fountain/cooler. Take ten minutes and walk around the building. Maybe start up some office yoga, or practice privately in your office with the door closed. We can think of jobs that are dangerous to one’s health, and often come with some sort of hazard pay, but to know that the most ‘harmless’ activity, nothingness, can be incredibly dangerous to health and cause premature death.

Below is the article I used to reference my information. Feel free to research on your own information of the topic. I would really like to read some research that disputes this as well, since I have worked in offices in the past as well. However, I have a feeling my future jobs will have much less sitting room. So as Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod have always told us, “keep fit and have fun”.

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What Are You Doing For 2012?

I hope by now you’ve all heard about the upcoming year, 2012 (and I’m not talking Mayan calendar here), as being an important one for co-op enterprises worldwide.  It is sure to be a turning point in the course of co-operative development and in the awareness of the co-op advantage for all the peoples of the world.

In 2009, the United Nations declared the year 2012 to be the International Year of Co-operatives (IYC).  In this declaration, the UN praised co-operative enterprises, not only for their economic viability, but also for their unique social development capacity.  The year will be dedicated to co-operatives doing what they do best – bringing together people and organizations with common needs in order to meet a specific goal.  Co-ops around the world will be using the IYC as a launch pad for various initiatives unique to their communities, regions, or countries. 

The theme, “Co-operative Enterprises Build a Better World,” aims to deliver a common message to the rest of the world.  This includes three key messages that all co-ops involved in IYC activities seek to demonstrate:

–          Co-ops are a serious business model.

–          Co-ops are values-based businesses.

–          Members are in control – they are the democratic voice of the business.

There are many activities being planned for the year, in Canada and around the world.  The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) has a calendar that is being filled in with IYC events from around the world.  On their website, theICA also has plans to share the story of 366 co-operatives, one for each day of the year – FYI: 2012 is a leap year. 

Here in Canada, the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) has a space for Canadian co-operatives to submit and share their IYC events and ideas throughout the year.  This will be a forum for finding ways to participate and for letting others know what your co-op plans to do.  Also, if you have yet to see the video released by CCA, take a look and spread the word.

Ultimately, my question to you is: how are you planning on participating in IYC 2012?  I know that not all of us will still be working in a co-op at that point, but now is a great time to get involved in the planning. And if you are no longer immersed in the co-op world by 2012, then wherever you are, continue to share the news and spread the message! 

Here are some things YOU can do NOW to get the momentum going:

  • Include the IYC slogan in your email auto-signature – “Co-op Enterprises Build a Better World”
  • Include the IYC logo on all internal and external communication produced by your organization, i.e.; letterhead, brochures, newsletters, website, Facebook, annual reports, etc. (IYC Logo available on the On Co-op website.)
  • Join the IYC Ontario Taskforce and get involved in the province-wide planning.
  • Read the ‘IYC Tips’ in the On Co-op e-Newsletter; it is a list that has been growing with every issue. 

However you choose to participate in IYC 2012; whether you take big or small steps to get the word out there and to celebrate what co-ops bring to our communities.  Everything we do will impact what the world remembers about co-operative enterprises by the end of 2012.

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