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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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.
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 →
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 →
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 →