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Wendy Carruthers

Director, representing The Co-operators

Tell us a bit about yourself (i.e., your background (where you grew up, education, children, which co-operative you work for, your position, etc.)

I am a co-operative management professional with 23 years in roles of increasing responsibility at The Co-operators, a leading Canadian insurance and financial services co-operative.  I completed my Masters of Management of Co-operatives and Credit Unions at Saint Mary’s in 2009. This program not only taught me about co-operatives and the vital role they play in global development, it supported the development of managerial skills that ensure co-operative identity is at the core of my work.

In 2019 I became the Associate Vice-President of Member & Key Client Relations, East with responsibility for promoting and supporting member relations, co-operative business development, liaising with national and provincial co-operative associations, and promoting co-operative identity with staff and externally. I have held a number of roles in departments across the organization including Sustainability and Citizenship, Strategic Planning, Underwriting and as a licensed broker in the Contact Centre. 

I completed my undergraduate in Comparative Development Studies and Cultural Studies at Trent University. I spent my third year in Ecuador where I became fluent in Spanish, and where I met her husband. My husband and I live with our two children in Guelph, Ontario.

How long have you been involved in the co-operative movement, and what do you love most about it?

I have been part of the co-op sector since I began working at The Co-operators in 1998 but I wasn’t aware of our co-operative nature until I heard a talk on our governance and unique identity during an internal leadership program. From there I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer to facilitate at CYL and my co-op journey was born. I leveraged my interest in our co-op identity to gather support from the organization to pursue my masters and have found that there is always more to learn and more to share about what co-operatives are and what they can do. That’s my favouite part – the community of learning, of growth and of connecting via our shared values.

If there is one thing you would want people to know about co-ops, what would it be?

That they are a viable business model where you can marry your values with economic growth and development.

Why is your co-operative a member of OCA?

The Co-operators is a member of every provincial co-operative association as we have a mandate to be a leader in the Canadian co-operative movement. Participation via dues and sponsorships, via providing people to sit on boards and committees and through the sharing of knowledge and in-kind services.

What do you think are some of the benefits of being a member of OCA?

  • A stronger and growing co-operative and non-profit sector in Ontario
  • Enhanced reputation within the co-operative community and beyond 
  • Increased awareness of the co-operative model
  • Enhanced business relationships with current and new co-operatives
  • Embedment of our co-operative identity within the organization through participation on boards and/or related activities 
  • Strengthening of our relationship with the co-operative community 
  • Having a voice in issues that impact the co-operative sector 

Why did you decide to join the OCA board as a Director?

I have been looking for a board opportunity where my specific skillset and experience would be valuable, and where I have the opportunity to contribute to the successful governance of a significant co-operative organization. OCA has the benefit for me of being local to where I live and work and representing the co-operatives in my province.

How has your past experience helped you in this role?

My education in co-operative management, my work experience at a large Canadian financial and insurance services organization which includes significant management support for organizational governance and co-operative education and my personal passion for the co-operative economy combine to make me prepared to be a strong contributor to this board.

What do you think are some of the opportunities and challenges facing OCA in the next 3 - 5 years?

Ongoing relevance to our membership and to our potential future members, co-operative education and awareness that leverages the current cultural shift for local, values-driven businesses and ongoing advocacy for the co-operative business model at all relevant levels of government.

What is your vision for OCA?

I’d like to spend time increasing my understanding of current areas of focus, of success and challenge before developing a personal vision for the organization.

Share a fun/silly thing that not many people know about you!

This is a tough question – it makes me realize I’m not really that fun! I guess I’d say I’m a voracious reader and I prefer novels (lots of different kinds) to any other kind of book (never give me a self-help or business book). I am convinced that reading so much makes me quite good a trivia games!  

Contact Wendy Carruthers at