Top Co-op Issues 2018 Comments and Action Items

Nora Russell

As noted in the first post on this topic, Top Co-op Issues 2018 surveyed CEOs, board members, managers, and academics across Canada to obtain a snapshot of the most pressing concerns facing co-operative organizations today. This post will discuss some of the many action items suggested by respondents. Although they provided clear advice on all twenty themes, we will focus here on the top six. Continue reading

Top Co-op Issues 2018

Nora Russell

We’ve just completed our third annual survey of Top Co-op Issues, asking 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 remains, as it was last year, public awareness of the co-operative model. As one respondent put it succinctly: “I believe the lack of understanding of the co-operative model among the general public is still the sector’s biggest challenge.” Continue reading

Governance Challenges in Credit Unions: Insights and Recommendations

Dionne Pohler, with Nora Russell


The Filene Research Institute and the Canadian Credit Union Association recently commissioned me to write a report examining the characteristics of the well-governed credit union and exploring the values and risks associated with co-operative governance models. Below, I summarize some of the key insights. You can download the full report on which this summary is based here.

Recent mergers and consolidations in the credit union system have led to a decrease in the number of credit unions and an increase in the size of the largest ones, which collectively manage tens of billions of dollars in assets and serve millions of members across the country. As credit unions diversify and grow, they face more risk and greater competition, as well as challenges to the effectiveness of their board governance. Continue reading

Achieving Sustainable Livelihoods: The Integrated Co-operative Model in East Africa

Aasa Marshall

The Integrated Co-op Model (ICM), developed with the support of the Canadian Co-operative Association, brings together production, marketing support, and financial services for agricultural producers. This three-pronged approach to sustainable development is aimed at improving the livelihoods of rural farmers through access to these services.

A recent exploratory study assessing the value of the ICM in rural Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda revealed a number of wide-ranging findings about its effects on local farmers and communities. Researchers Dr. Lou Hammond Ketilson, Dr. JoAnn Jaffe, and Dr. Cindy Hanson presented the findings at the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives as part of the Centre’s Seminar Series. Continue reading

Demystifying the Sharing Economy

Part Two: Indigenizing the Co-operative Counter Narrative

Isobel Findlay

Throughout their diverse histories around the world, co-operatives have found common cause with other social movements (in Italy, Spain, and Latin America, for example), deriving new energies, enterprise, and understandings in the process. While they have much in common with Indigenous communities, co-operatives have missed opportunities to act in solidarity with them, to decolonize public discourses, challenge market logic’s Eurocentric thinking, and capitalize on their shared investments in and capacities for sharing, innovation, and resilience in the most hostile of environments (Findlay and Findlay 2013). Continue reading

Demystifying the Sharing Economy

Part 1: Remembering the Co-operative Counter Narrative

Isobel M. Findlay

In the context of the economic, financial, and environmental crises that continue to shake belief in mainstream institutions (trust is at record lows, even in Canada), many look to the sharing economy as a real game changer. They promote it as a revolutionary disrupter, empowering people to leverage underused assets and reduce environmental impacts, liberating them from the excesses of ownership and regulation behind the crises, and even helping to renew community bonds. According to enthusiasts and opportunists alike, sharing is now all about accessing underused and unused capacity in the interests of efficiency, convenience, and choice. However, as an allegedly new market signifier in a hyperconnected communicative economy, the sharing economy forgets or ignores the history of sharing, especially in co-operative and Indigenous settings, so as to better hype cybermutualism as accelerated convenience and enhanced consumer choice. Continue reading

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose — The Challenges Facing Canadian Credit Unions

Murray Fulton, Brett Fairbairn, Dionne Pohler

Canadian credit unions are facing significant challenges as they attempt to reorganize to meet a rapidly changing economic, technological, demographic, and organizational environment. These problems have been well documented and can be found in reports by credit union organizations such as Central 1’s If now now, when? and in academic commentaries such as our recent blog post, “Credit Unions in Canada: Design Principles for Greater Co-operation.” Continue reading

Co-operative Governance School — A Resounding Success!

Nora Russell

Thirty students from thirteen countries around the world converged on the University of Saskatchewan for an intense week in early October for the Centre-sponsored and -organized Co-operative Governance School for Emerging Researchers. It was a truly remarkable event, with the kind of international pull that only a top global graduate school can exercise; it filled our classrooms and hallways with the excitement of intellectual exchange and an energy that was palpable. The Centre is indeed proud to have attracted this outstanding group of young scholars and to have established the U of S as a leading centre for governance studies.

Continue reading

Co-ops and Universities: Seeking the Elusive Partnership

Part 4: What Are the Prospects?

Brett Fairbairn, with Nora Russell

Part two of this blog post looked at the three I’s of co-op/university partnerships — the Individual, Incentive, and Institutionalizing approaches. Part three examined the three F’s — Faculty, Fee, or Free. It is tempting to match up the I’s and the F’s to create some IF’s. The individual networking strategy for co-ops can link up with the faculty-position-based approach of particular academics. An incentivizing offer from co-ops can match a fee-for-service mentality on the part of an enterprising professor. And an institutionalized approach by co-ops can provide core funding to support the knowledge-for-free style of engagement where faculty are interested and able to follow this model. I suggest that there are at least three equilibria for co-op–university partnerships: Continue reading

Credit Unions in Canada: Design Principles for Greater Co-operation

Murray Fulton, Brett Fairbairn, Dionne Pohler

The credit union system in Canada is at a crossroads. The following quotations from Central 1’s October 2016 report If not now, when? illustrate the challenges nicely:

Canada’s Credit Union system is approaching a tipping point. As the small player in the national financial services sector, Credit Unions are being consistently outpaced by the scale and marketing strength of the major banks.… Continue reading