About O.U.R. Cooperative
O.U.R. Ecovillage Cooperative, incorporated in July, 2007, was created to carry overall ownership and management of the property. The design and incorporation of the cooperative were carried out with assistance from the F.O.G. (Finance Ownership and Governance) Landshare Research Project team, including Deborah Curran of D. Curran & Associates in Victoria, and technical support from Marty Frost, a co-op developer from Devco Development Cooperative, based out of Galiano Island.
The F.O.G. Landshare Research Project was designed (and funded by Agriculture Canada, The Real Estate Foundation and The Notary Foundation) to help facilitate a path through the various barriers faced by landshare projects that have multiple stakeholders involved with multiple activities. Given the holistic and diverse nature of O.U.R. Ecovillage, and due to the “Rural Residential Comprehensive Development Zone” we created, it has been challenging to find conventional models of ownership, finance packaging and mainstream governance models. O.U.R. Ecovillage Cooperative was created to pilot a new ownership model, develop a socially responsible mortgage/financing package, and allow for comprehensive governance.
The co-op has adopted a unique membership structure, reflecting the goals and direction of the community. (more on becoming a member). A member is someone who has purchased a membership share which entitles them to one vote (irrespective of how many shares they may own) in the governance of the Cooperative with all the rights and responsibilities of membership.
Membership is allocated to 5 membership classes, each of which represents one aspect of involvement in the activities of the community.
- Hearthkeeper Stewards are those adults who intend to take up residence on the land in Shawnigan Lake and hold the space for the realization of O.U.R. Vision and Mission.
- Education Stewards will be those members who participate in education programs directed by the cooperative.
- Agriculture Stewards will be those members who organize and carry out agricultural activities on the land.
- Sustainable Enterprise Stewards will be those who carry on business from space they lease or rent on the property of the co-op.
- Community Stewards will be those members who are not directly connected to the co-op’s property, but support the activities of the co-op and its connection to the broader community.
Each class of membership is entitled to be represented on the board of directors by one of its members, with the exception of the hearthkeeper stewards. Hearthkeeper stewards are entitled at all times to have a majority of the directors’ positions. Hearthkeeper Stewards are also required to purchase $50,000 in membership shares, while all other membership classes are only required to purchase a single membership share at $5,000.
The capital structure of the cooperative also includes investment shares that may be sold to members, or to those who do not wish to enter membership with the cooperative. Investment shares have a par value of $1,000 apiece.
O.U.R. Ecovillage Cooperative decision-making
Decisions are made on a consensus basis. Within the framework of the Cooperative Association Act, which gives members the right to vote, directors work to consensus at meetings of the board of directors, and general meetings work to consensus except where the Act requires a vote with a specific majority. At any time, however, a member may require a vote, at which point a vote is taken at any meeting. The group values its consensus decision making, and members are trained in the process and value of consensus decision-making.