The Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op (CNYC) teaches basic skills in woodworking, gardening, bicycle mechanics, composting, and marketing to local youth, and then gives them the opportunity to provide Saskatoon residents with fresh produce and valuable services. In The Core Neighbourhood Youth Coop: A Review and Long-Term Strategy, Juliano Tupone examines the history and purpose of this Saskatoon inner-city youth program and recommends a market strategy to help it flourish.
CNYC was established in 1996 as part of Riversdale community members’ desire to “address self-sufficiency, co-operative principles, and environmentalism” (p.2). It provides youth from inner-city neighbourhoods with opportunities to learn economic and marketing basics, with an emphasis on the principles of co-operative business and environmentalism. CNYC youths have been involved in tree banding, compost bin construction and sales, bicycle repairs, recycling, organic gardening, and produce sales. The program is important because it serves mostly “at-risk” youth, creating a safe environment for them to channel their interests and energies in positive and skill-building activities. Saskatoon as a whole benefits from teaching youths self-sufficiency and productivity.
Despite its apparent success, CNYC faces several threats to its long-term existence. Money raised from the group’s economic activities is inadequate for self-sufficiency, and outside funding is unstable. Especially uncertain is municipal and provincial government funding , where every election might bring to power persons/parties unsympathetic to the program’s aims. An additional concern is that mainstream businesses are increasingly embracing so-called green goods and services—organic produce, recycled materials, and other environmentally-friendly products—and that this competition cuts into CNYC’s profits. CNYC also suffers from a general anonymity in the greater Saskatoon area, thereby losing potential customers sympathetic to the program’s aims.
However, CNYC benefits from highly dedicated community leaders who serve as teachers and organizers. Youth participation and interest in the program is equally strong. CNYC’s goods and services are also considered to be of high quality and value, especially in the increasing environmentally-conscious market. The program also has the advantage of being the only one of its kind in the province.
To maximize assets and minimize liabilities, Tupone proposes several strategies, including a simple advertising campaign and special event participation to raise community awareness of CNYC. Increased partnerships with other community organizations and lobbying municipal and provincial governments would improve its profile and build allies. Finally, CNYC must be more aggressive in seeking and applying for grants.
CNYC has undeniably accomplished a great deal in only a few years and has considerable potential for growth and expansion, both economically and, more importantly, in offering opportunities to at-risk youths. The program’s virtues and past successes make it imperative that it receives support from both the community and government.