About Nora Russell

Nora Russell is the publications and communications officer at the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, University of Saskatchewan

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

Co-ops and Universities: Seeking the Elusive Partnership

Part 3: The Faculty Dilemma

Brett Fairbairn, with Nora Russell

Part 2 of this post, “Viable Partnerships,” looked at how co-ops might work with universities and suggested three possibilities: the three I’s — the Individual, Incentive, and Institutionalizing approaches. How does it look from the other side? If you are a faculty member inside a university, what are your options for how to engage the co-op sector?

Where the co-op’s problem is how to influence the behaviour of the faculty, the faculty member’s problem is how to access resources to enable different behaviour on the part of faculty and students. There are a variety of solutions to this problem. Continue reading

Why Are Agricultural Co-ops Declining in Saskatchewan?

Yawen Luo

Agricultural co-operatives have deep roots in Saskatchewan. Since the early part of the twentieth century, farmers have used the co-operative model to organize agricultural activities. The last two decades, however, have seen significant changes in agricultural co-ops, including the disappearance of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, once the largest agricultural co-op in Canada. While research has focused on the failure of the large co-ops, little attention has been directed to smaller agricultural co-ops and the environment in which they operate.

Recent research at the Centre for the Study of Co-operative shows that the number of agricultural co-ops in Saskatchewan has fallen from 307 in 2001 to 178 in 2015, a decline of 42 percent. Why has this occurred? Continue reading

The Saskatchewan Disability Strategy: Why the Co-op Model Is a Good Fit

Victoria Taras

People with disabilities face barriers to inclusion as full and autonomous members of society. Inclusion of a person with blindness on their commute, for example, requires tactile and audio signals on the bus, at crosswalks, on their cell phone, and to find the right building, the right floor, and the right room. It also requires special equipment and training on how to get around, as well as an employer, landlord, and bus driver who understands his or her needs and rights. Every element of this wide range of daily activities needs to be addressed for the person in the example and for all people with disabilities. Presently, we fall short. Continue reading

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