The Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives’ (CCSC) Monthly Brown Bag is an online gathering for co-operative sector professionals to learn from others in the field and exchange information in a casual setting.
On December 1, 2021, the second Monthly Brown Bag featured Co-operatives First, a nonprofit organization funded by Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) and the Co-operative Retailing System (CRS). Our speakers were Audra Krueger, Executive Director of Co-operatives First, and Sheldon Stener Q.C., General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, FCL, and Chair of the Board at Co-operatives First. Founded in 2015, Co-operatives First provides co-op start-up resources, such as feasibility studies, business plans, and incorporation support to rural and Indigenous co-op entrepreneurs across western Canada. Their goal is to help leaders in these communities build new businesses, grow local economies, and support community development. Audra and Sheldon shared the story of Co-operatives First, which began with a research project called the Co-operative Innovation Project (CIP) at the University of Saskatchewan’s Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives.
Below is the full transcript of their talk.
The Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives’ (CCSC) Monthly Brown Bag is an online gathering for co-operative sector professionals to learn from others in the field and exchange information in a casual setting. On November 3, 2021, the first Monthly Brown Bag featured Eric Dillon, the chief executive officer of Conexus Credit Union, and Mary Weimer, the chief member experience officer of Conexus Credit Union. Eric and Mary shared the story of how Conexus leveraged its co-operative and community connections to build a small business incubator (Conexus Cultivator) and venture capital fund (Conexus Venture Capital) to deliver technical advice, strategic guidance, and financial support for Saskatchewan’s start-up businesses. To date, 66 Saskatchewan start-up companies have taken part in the Conexus Cultivator and raised $19.4 million in capital and $11.1 million in revenue.
Below is the full transcript of their talk.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.