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.
In our second annual survey of Top Co-op Issues, we asked 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 is public awareness of the co-operative model — the lack of it, that is. As one person commented, “Raising the profile of co-ops in a noisy marketplace is difficult.”
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We conducted the survey as part of our mission to understand the world of co-ops and make that knowledge accessible. The results published here hold a mirror to the co-op sector, not only identifying important issues but also providing clear areas for collaboration for both advocacy and research. We selected our informants based on their specialized knowledge about co-ops. The 2017 survey included a sample similar to last year’s — CEOs, board members, managers, and academics balanced by region, sector, and role within the co-op. Their knowledge is invaluable because it is extensive, detailed, and privileged. Continue reading →
The Future of Credit Union Branches in a Digital World
A conference recently made me think about the future of credit unions as connecting points between the real world and the digital world. The conference was in Luzern, Switzerland, where mainly German-speaking co-op leaders and academics came together to discuss co-op identity and growth. One of the working groups was on co-operative banking and digitization, and it was their report that got me thinking.
Co-operative banking is one of the most mobile and digital lines of business any co-op could be in. We have come to understand that money, deposits, loans, and so on — many of the “products” credit unions deliver — are essentially information. They are numbers in databases — numbers that can be transferred or changed at computer speed. Today, the digital world is the real world of banking commodities.
Only occasionally does the virtual world of banking services take material expression. An automated banking machine (ABM), when you think about it, is a machine that converts information into physical monetary bills when you need them. An ABM is a small, specialized material outpost of an unseen digital world.
Which brings me to credit unions, especially their distributed physical facilities. What is a credit union branch? What will it be in the future? In an increasingly digital world, such branches could go at least two ways. Continue reading →