Investing for Justice – Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative

For 25 years the Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative (CAIC) has pooled investment resources of Canadian charities, currently all faith based, to work towards a transforming, more just and equitable society. Worker co-ops, women’s shelters, community loan funds and resource centres have found in CAIC a source of funds to help achieve a shared vision of a world where the gifts of creation are more readily available for all.

CAIC has worked with fair trade initiatives such as La Siembra.  CAIC has worked with housing co-operatives such as Margaret Lawrence Co-op. From co-operative radio stations to a community bakery, and from Vancouver Island to Yellowknife to St. John’s, CAIC has played, and continued to play, a unique role in
Canada.

CAIC is an investor co-operative. Its members need to make a return on their investments to help ensure their own viability. But CAIC’s members attempt to do something more with their resources—-they share what they have to support co-operatives and community initiatives. Investments must result in a social good.

CAIC was born in the shadow of Vatican II and liberation theology.  25 years ago representatives of religious orders came together to give a practical expressing to a desire to be a positive transforming presence in the broader society.  While definitely faith based and Catholic in orientation, CAIC was formed not
to advance the Christian faith but to ensure that the preferential option for the poor, and particularly as it was expressed in the spirit of the beatitudes, Matthew 25: 31 – 46 and Acts 2: 42 – 47, was given concrete expression while ensuring the stewardship and oversight requirements of those entrusted with a charities’ resources was maintained.

Over the past 25 years the membership of CAIC has grown beyond the Catholic roots, bringing in such bodies as The Canadian Friends Service Committee, Trinity St. Paul’s United Church and the Student Christian Movement of Canada. Each new member brings additional financial resources and a renewal of the vision of the founders, a renewal that ensures that as the priorities and needs of Canadian communities change, CAIC can find a way to share in meeting these needs.

Recently the Ontario Region of the Canadian Co-operative Association honoured CAIC for its creative and unique work.

It would be great if CAIC grew, both by bringing in more members from among the Christian community and by growth in the broader charitable world.   CAIC’s by-laws require members to be Canadian charities; there is no requirment for members to be connected to a faith community. What is required is a desire to share the financial resources of the charity through a revolving loan fund. The loan fund works in the world to support initiatives that may not be able to find funds elsewhere, projects that house the poor, build fair trade enterprises, encourage individuals and communities to pool their own resources in co-operative and community economic initiatives and in many other ways promote a more just and sustainable world.

CAIC is not a charity but an investment organisation of charities that find within CAIC a way to fulfil their mandates, gain a return on their investments and help others create transforming alternatives across Canada and, indirectly through fair trade efforts, around the world. The larger the membership of CAIC, the greater the investment pool, the greater the impact CAIC can have in the world.

I have a personal stake in CAIC—I represent the endowment committee of the Student Christian Movement to CAIC and sit on CAIC’s board. I am unique among the directors in that I also sit on the board of a project—-St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society—that has used the resources of CAIC. Without CAIC St. Clare’s would have far fewer units of affordable housing to offer. Without CAIC the investment options available to the SCM would be fewer, and investment options that help promote social justice would be almost impossible to find.

I encourage anyone involved in a Canadian charity that has resources to invest and a vision of a better world for others to promote membership in CAIC. Information on CAIC can be found on its website: www.caic.ca.

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One response to “Investing for Justice – Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative

  1. Whats more, credit unions are healthier: Banks were five times more likely to have failed during the economic downturn than credit unions.

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