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Common Ground Co-operative
By Doug Brodhead, CEDTAP volunteer

“When people with intellectual disabilities gain some influence over the running of their own households and the organization of their workplaces, their lives can improve markedly.”
--Carolyn Lemon, “Community-based co-operative ventures for adults with intellectual disabilities”. Canadian Geography, vol. 47 no. 4 pg. 414, 2003.

The “Lemon and Allspice Cookery” and “The Coffee Shed” are two businesses supported by the Common Ground Co-operative. These two businesses demonstrate that if given the right support, people with intellectual disabilities are able to function in a regular workplace. The Common Ground, a non-profit funding umbrella, was created to find funding for the salaries of these business partners and support staff; thus, allowing partners with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to work in a functioning business. As a result, Common Ground illustrates how a working business, staffed by persons with disabilities has the ability to be a successful business.

Kareena Grant
Kareena Grant, a Partner
in the Cookery since
2001, died suddenly of
heart failure at the age of
34 on Mar. 28 2005. This
story is a memorial to
The majority of Common Ground’s funding comes from the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS), under its Ontario Disability Support Program fee for service, time-limited funding, with some new, partial, base funding this April 1 fiscal year under the Foundations funding of the Ministry’s Developmental Services section. There are numerous other supporters who have helped the Co-op along the way. However, the contract with the MCSS ODSP section was approaching its end parameters, and Common Ground Co-operative had to reevaluate the future of their program.

As a result, the Co-op sought help from the Community Economic Development Technical Assistance Program (CEDTAP) in order to create specific goals for their future that would allow their businesses to become self-sustainable, lessening the dependency of the organizations success on contracts, such as the one administered by the MCSS ODSP. CEDTAP was pleased to help the Common Ground in their “Expansion Phase One” project and wanted to help the Common Ground create measures to develop their businesses into self-sustainable enterprises. Through CEDTAP funding, the Co-op hired Social and Enterprise Development Innovations (SEDI) to carry out various tasks that would give Common Ground an accurate description of what strategies they must create and implement to survive in the highly competitive food industry. These tasks included, research and analysis, Common Ground stock taking, feasibility testing of the Common Ground, helping the Common Ground complete a comprehensive sustainability plan that would allow the Co-op to create businesses that were self-sustainable.

SEDI proved to be very effective and thorough in their research and analysis of the Co-op’s situation, and came up with some very important recommendations for the Common Ground to reach their prospective goals. One of SEDI’s most important recommendations was that the Co-op create partnerships with foundations, agencies and corporations that would commit to long-term funding strategies and allow the Common Ground to take proactive steps toward becoming self-sustainable. Some of the proposed foundations, agencies and corporations were the Royal Bank of Canada, ScotiaBank, Co-operative Development Initiative, Hellyer Family Foundation, and The Cooperators. By doing this, CGC could become less reliant on monetary assistance and start to create more businesses, allowing more and more individuals with disabilities the opportunity to work in the supportive workplaces. SEDI also recommended that the Common Ground put emphasis on the building business profitability, broadening co-operative governance, and increased marketing strategies. All these recommendations helped create a focused plan that the Common Ground could use as a model and become a more versatile, expanding, successful business in which the business partners could really contribute to the success of the business.

Thanks to the incredibly hard work put in by the volunteers and staff, CEDTAP, and SEDI, the Common Ground Co-operative is on the right track for success in their phase one expansion project. Currently, the Co-op has expanded and created two additional Coffee Sheds. If you are interested in learning more about the Common Ground Co-operative you can come visit them at 4 Overlea Blvd., Toronto, ON, M4H 1A4 or contact the Director by phone at (416) 421-7117, by fax at (416) 421-7116, and by e-mail at


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