Kokobi, a non-profit consulting group with a focus on the community sector, and Robert Boissonneault, a former staff member at the UTSU, have been involved in union deliberations this year.
Kokobi has been involved in the Student Commons strategy, and Boissoneault’s input has been informal and limited to editing documents and giving advice, according to Matthias Memmel, Vice-President Internal and Services and President-elect of the UTSU.
Kokobi focuses almost exclusively on working with other non-profits. The University of Manitoba Students’ Union is another students’ union that has worked with the consultancy.
“Student organizations have the same needs as other non-profits,” Kokobi’s founder and Operations Director Adrian Kaats told The Varsity. “So there is little difference, if any, between what we do with student organizations and our non-student organization clients.”
Kaats was involved in student politics when he was a student at McGill University and also wrote actively for the McGill Daily newspaper at that time. “It’s all in the public record, and in the past,” Kaats said of these associations.
That public record reveals his involvement as the chair of the Canadian Federation of Students Québec (CFS-Q), which he left in 2009 to lead a decertification campaign from the CFS in the province.
By the end of 2009, the CFS-Q was no longer a recognized provincial affiliate of the CFS.
Kaats declined to disclose any of the specific work Kokobi has done for the UTSU or what other student organizations they have worked for.
According to Memmel, the work that the union has paid Kokobi for is limited to the Student Commons. This includes contractual obligations and operations, as well as governance.
“Kokobi has helped the UTSU review construction plans, design plans, and helped the UTSU negotiate with the University the best possible interpretation of a poorly defined Student Commons Agreement,” said Memmel. “This has involved numerous meetings for which Kokobi has not billed the UTSU.”
He noted that, as of March 25, the union has paid Kokobi $7,113.30 for work spanning a period of approximately four and a half months.
Another outside figure providing consultation to the UTSU has been Boissonneault.
“[Boissonneault] left the UTSU in September, but he still occasionally gives advice and sometimes helps with things like editing documents,” Memmel said.
Boissonneault served as the Associate Vice-President Internal and Services at the UTSU from June 2015 to April 2016 and as an Executive Assistant from June to September 2016. Boissonneault also “did some work” for Kokobi in January and February, he said.
“I know some of the executives well, and I still talk to those executives,” Boissonneault told The Varsity. He confirmed that he sometimes gives advice and helps with researching and editing documents.
“That might not be a very satisfying answer,” Boissoneault said, “but I don’t know how else to characterize my involvement.”
It is unclear whether Boissonneault has been paid for any consulting he did with the UTSU and whether he did formal work related to the union through Kokobi.