The Power of Two: Raising One-Member, One Vote to the Next Level

Murray Fulton

One-member, one-vote is a long-standing practice in co-operatives, ensuring that each member-owner-patron has an equal say in basic governance and that power is not concentrated among those that have contributed the most capital.

But while one-member, one-vote widely distributes influence, it fails to address the intensity members feel for the many activities co-operatives could undertake. Continue reading

The Answers are Around Us and With Us Because They Are Us

Marc-André Pigeon

The fruits of community-led social enterprise. Photo credit http://www.armyofproblemsolvers.com

It happened like some of the best things in life: purely by chance.

My partner was making the 2400 kilometre trek from Saskatoon to our hometown in Ontario and stopped in for a visit to a friend who lives off the grid just outside of Kenora, near the Manitoba border.  The friend’s husband, a correctional officer, inquired about my line of work. When told I studied co-operatives, credit unions, and social enterprises, he said, “I’ve got a book he should read.” Continue reading

The Economical Demutualization: What About the Rest of Us?

Marc-Andé Pigeon

Do investors in a mutual have the right to cash in on a windfall created by previous generations?

The members of Economical – the Waterloo, ON-based property and casualty insurance company – gave the green light to the company’s demutualization in a vote on March 20, 2019. The business press says the move will be a “windfall” and “lottery” win for 878 owners, who could each pocket as much as $430,000 on an “investment” consisting of a three-year insurance policy (see here, here and here for background).

From a co-operative and mutualist perspective, it is tempting to see this process as a form of massive inter-generational wealth transfer. Why should a small band of owners benefit from accumulated wealth in a company that was started more than a 100 years ago by a group of hardscrabble farmers who put in countless volunteer hours making it into something? Continue reading

Co-operative Governance and Game of Thrones

Paul Thompson

The fabled Iron Throne of Westeros

Who should rule the Seven Kingdoms? This is the central question of the blockbuster television series Game of Thrones. In this respect, the show presents many useful questions on legitimacy in leadership.

Should the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms be the next in a hereditary line stretching back generations? Or should it be the leader of a people’s rebellion who overthrew and killed the previous, corrupt king? What about that leader’s eldest brother, or his more popular younger brother? How about his illegitimate son? A powerful and well-liked nobleman? Or a barbarian king from parts unknown? Continue reading

Six Principles for a Successful Second-Tier

Jen Budney and Paul Thompson

Co-ops can learn from principles that have been used to successfully manage common pool goods like irrigations systems for generations.

There are many things that make co-operative enterprises different from investor-owned firms. Chief among these is the members’ control of how the business is governed. However, this unique aspect of co-ops is not without its challenges. Anyone who has been involved in guiding a co-op can attest to this. And when a co-op’s members are themselves co-ops, rather than individuals –that is, when they are second-tier co-ops– these challenges can be amplified. Continue reading

Connecting Co-operators

Paul Thompson

Our free, online course, “Governance in Co-operatives,” has brought together nearly 1,500 co-operators from around the world to discuss governance in co-ops and social enterprises

We’ve discussed before in this space the potential for technology to spark innovation in the way we co-operate. This previous blog post discussed some of the new ways co-ops are being created using digital platforms. However, the proliferation of the World Wide Web, mobile phones, and social media in our daily lives haven’t just created new opportunities for co-operative enterprises, they have also created new avenues for educating people around the globe about the co-op difference.

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Top Co-op Issues 2019

Paul Thompson

Top Co-op Issues

A word cloud of the responses to our 2019 Top Co-op Issues survey

Each year, the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives surveys co-operative leaders from across Canada on the top issues their organizations face. In this post, we discuss the top six responses from our 2019 survey.

For more information on the Top Co-op Issues 2019, and surveys from previous years, visit our website.

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Are Co-ops Naturally Ethical or Moral? No, They’re Not.

Paul Thompson

What makes an organization ethical?

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a supporter of the co-operative movement. It’s also likely that you would agree with a broad statement like “co-operatives are an ethical way of doing business” or “co-operatives are more like to act ethically than investor-owned firms.”

But how do we know that’s true? Is there something inherent to the co-op model that makes co-operative enterprises more morally sound than their competitors? If you believe the argument put forward by Dr. Morris Altman from the Newcastle Business School in NSW, Australia, the answer to these questions is a firm “no.”

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There is much to do, isn’t there?

Paul Thompson

Marc-André Pigeon, Director, Centre for the Study of Co-operatives

There is much to do, isn’t there?

We live in a world challenged by geopolitical tensions, threatened by climate change, and riven by inequalities. If there ever was a time for the co-operative sector to assume a greater place in our lives and help all of us address these challenges, it is now. There are some signs that this is happening.

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What Makes Governance in Co-operatives Different?

Paul Thompson

boardroom governance

All firms are co-operatives? That can’t be right…

When I first started studying co-operatives as a graduate student, the first article I read was a piece provocatively titled “All firms are cooperatives – and so are governments.” Its author, Yale law professor Henry Hansmann, claimed exactly what you would expect from the title: that investor-owned businesses were no different in their structure than co-operatives. Continue reading