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.
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 →
“Chemistry is the study of matter. But I prefer to think of it as the study of change. Now just think about this: electrons, they change their energy levels; molecules change their bonds; elements, they combine and change into compounds. Well that… that’s all of life, right?”
In November, the Centre hosted its annual MacPherson Talk. The 2018 lecture featured Nathan Schneider from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Professor Schneider’s work as a journalist, academic, and author has focused on platform co-operatives and their role in ownership and governance in the digital economy. This series of blog posts is inspired by his talk, entitled “An Internet of Ownership: Democratic Design for the Online Economy.”
From the time the first credit union was formed in Saskatchewan in 1910, 380 individual credit unions were incorporated. Today, there are 44 (SaskCentral). Co-opertives and credit unions usually start out small, serving the needs of geographically defined members. The power and appeal of the credit union is in locally-based decision making and connection to the local community. When credit unions have been in existence for multiple generations, the communities change, economies change, and environments change. The board is tasked with ensuring the credit union is sustainable both today and in the future. Can credit unions that were formed under different circumstances continue to provide quality services to their members in their new realities? When does the amalgamation question arise? Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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 →
Part Two: Indigenizing the Co-operative Counter Narrative
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 →