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.

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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

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

OSFI Advisory Should Provide Exemption for Credit Unions

Dionne Pohler

Dionne Pohler.* Photo credit David Stobbe / stobbephoto.ca

I grew up in a small farming village in rural Saskatchewan, where we commonly referred to the credit union as “the bank.” It was the only deposit and lending institution available in my hometown.

The words “bank” and “banking” have clear meanings in common language: Canadians use “banking” as a gerund in the same general way that people use the term “google” to mean an Internet search, or “uber” to ride share. Few understand “banking” as a term reserved exclusively for a subset of federally regulated financial institutions.

On June 30, however, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), the national regulator of Canada’s federally incorporated banks, issued an advisory that clarifies their interpretation of the Bank Act. The advisory aims to discourage what OSFI claims is increased use of the words “bank,” “banker,” and “banking” by “non-bank financial service providers.” Continue reading

Co-ops and Universities: Seeking the Elusive Partnership

Part 2: Viable Partnerships

Brett Fairbairn, with Nora Russell

Clearly, there are important reasons for co-ops and universities to be interested in each other. But while they can be aligned, they can never be, or remain, perfectly aligned. The demands of co-operatives to demonstrate a value proposition — to justify the commitment of resources to an education initiative in competition with returning greater short-term benefits to members — are impossible to satisfy fully. There will always be a tension. The questions within the academy are equally unanswerable — whether the same resources contributed to another undertaking would create more peer-reviewed publications, more prestigious grants, more reputational impact, than contributing faculty, staff, and student time to work with and on co-operatives. Both co-ops and universities face competing claims on time and resources. Continue reading