Top Co-op Issues: Action Items

Nora Russell

As noted in the first post on this topic, Top Co-op Issues 2017 surveyed CEOs, board members, managers, and academics across Canada to obtain a snapshot of the most pressing concerns facing co-operative organizations today. This entry will discuss some of the many action items suggested by respondents. Although they provided clear advice on all twenty themes, the focus in this post is on the actions associated with the top six.

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Top Co-op Issues 2017

Nora Russell

In our second annual survey of Top Co-op Issues, we asked co-operative leaders across Canada to identify the most pressing concerns facing co-operative organizations today. According to CEOs, board members, managers, and academics in virtually every region and sector, the number one issue for co-op leaders is public awareness of the co-operative model — the lack of it, that is. As one person commented, “Raising the profile of co-ops in a noisy marketplace is difficult.”

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We conducted the survey as part of our mission to understand the world of co-ops and make that knowledge accessible. The results published here hold a mirror to the co-op sector, not only identifying important issues but also providing clear areas for collaboration for both advocacy and research. We selected our informants based on their specialized knowledge about co-ops. The 2017 survey included a sample similar to last year’s — CEOs, board members, managers, and academics balanced by region, sector, and role within the co-op. Their knowledge is invaluable because it is extensive, detailed, and privileged. Continue reading

Member Representation

Brett Fairbairn and Murray Fulton

Image credit below

In our Two-Hats post, we argue that directors of a second-tier co-operative must put the interests of that organization first when they are actively engaged with the board. This, in turn, means they cannot act as a “representative” of their first-tier organization while sitting on a second-tier board. But, if this is the case, where does representation occur?

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Crowding In and Crowding Out

Murray Fulton

In a previous post, I outlined how a failure to find the right balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations can lead to a crowding-out effect in which the introduction of more extrinsic incentives results in poorer, rather than better, performance. With the right balance, however, extrinsic motivations can significantly enhance performance — the crowding-in effect.

Crowding-in and crowding-out effects can have a real impact on how decisions are made, on the effectiveness of policy, and on the performance of organizations, including co-operatives. Here are a couple of examples. Continue reading

The Two-Hat Problem

Murray Fulton and Brett Fairbairn

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Images courtesy clipart-library.com

The following question was recently posed to us regarding governance models for second-tier co-operative organizations such as federated wholesalers and financial centrals: Is there an expectation that board members must think about the interests of the second-tier organization or should they represent their home organization?

This question nicely encapsulates what Glen Tully, chair of the Centre’s Management Advisory Board, calls the Two-Hat Problem. When board members have two hats they can wear, which one should they put on? Continue reading

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivations

by Murray Fulton

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In a recent post on future options for the credit union system in Canada, Dionne Pohler and I argued that to be effective and meet the needs of a wide variety of stakeholders, the new system must rely on a mix of both extrinsic and intrinsic incentives. What are these two types of incentives? And why are they important?

Extrinsic motivations are monetary rewards or penalties such as pay-for-performance schemes and financial payments for not complying with rules and regulations. Extrinsic incentives work, it is believed, because people make decisions based on the financial costs and benefits of the options they face.

Intrinsic motivations, in contrast, can be observed in the desire to undertake activities simply because they are enjoyable or because they generate satisfaction — the wish to do a job well or to undertake a task because it leads to some greater good. The mission motivation that drives the behaviour of many people is a good example of an intrinsic incentive. Continue reading

“Citizen Energy”: Social Innovation, Public Policy, and the German Energy Transformation

Based on a lecture by Brett Fairbairn
Co-hosted by the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy and the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, University of Saskatchewan, 2 November 2016

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Wind turbine under construction

Like many countries, Canada is looking for green-energy alternatives in response to climate change. Germany presents an interesting case study that Canada could use. The “Energy Transformation” (Energiewende) in Germany has increased renewable energy to more than 30 percent of consumption to date and aims for 60 percent by 2050. The country has accomplished this thanks to innovative legislation coupled with the response of civil society and the business sector. A key mechanism was the creation of nearly nine hundred energy co-operatives in less than a decade.

Brett Fairbairn outlined the strategy in his lecture titled “Citizen Energy: Social Innovation, Public Policy, and the German Energy Transformation.” In partnership with Markus Hanisch from the Berlin Institute of Co-operative Studies, Brett examined the role of community-level social entrepreneurship and innovation in achieving green-energy targets.  Continue reading

If Not Now, When?

Murray Fulton and Dionne Pohler

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Dionne Pohler

Murray Fulton

The question posed above is the entirely appropriate title of an October 2016 report by Central 1 on possible futures for the centrals in the Canadian credit union system (read the report here). As the report indicates, low margins, increasing competition, rapid technological change, increasingly diverse expectations for member services, and new and often unfavourable regulatory environments make it clear that the status quo is unsustainable and change is required at the second-tier level. Continue reading

Governance Issues in European Co-ops: Are There Lessons Here for Their Canadian Cousins?

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Markus Hanisch

The Centre’s second annual MacPherson Talk featured Dr. Markus Hanisch, managing director of the Institute for Research on Co-operatives at Humboldt University in Berlin.

Hanisch’s presentation — “Changing Governance in European Co-operatives: Simply Shifting or Losing Control?” — outlined a series of innovations occurring in European co-operative governance and the impact of these changes on co-operative performance. Based on data from 571 farmer co-operatives in the European Union, Hanisch concluded that co-operatives that have implemented certain governance innovations — professionalising and allowing outsiders to join their boards of directors, recruiting larger boards, and creating a governance model in which the co-op acts as a holding structure — have improved their performance. The research also notes, however, that these shifts towards corporate governance structures may affect member control. Continue reading

Co-ops Make Markets Work Better

Murray Fulton, director, Centre for the Study of Co-operatives

The Role of Co-operatives in the Economy
Murray Fulton

In a StarPhoenix/Leader Post op-ed piece published on 7 December 2016, Brett Fairbairn, Dionne Pohler, and I outlined why a mix of business types is required for a well-functioning market. As we said,

Achieving the correct balance of different types of business forms is critical.… Just as biological environments benefit from a rich mix of different organisms, so, too, do markets benefit from a diversity of business types. Consumer interests and a desire for local control can be met with co-operatives; niche markets can be served by entrepreneurs; and employment opportunities can be generated through employee ownership. Established chains have a role to play, given their brand identification and experience.

While we were commenting specifically on the privatization of liquor stores in Saskatchewan, the argument is a general one and applies to all markets in the economy. It is particularly relevant for co-operatives and credit unions. Continue reading