MEC — a large Canadian retail co-operative that specializes in outdoor activity equipment — implemented a number of controversial changes three years ago to strengthen the knowledge and skill sets at its board table and to ensure its governance structure could continue to guide the growing company.
Formerly known as Mountain Equipment Co-op, MEC was started by a small group of friends from the University of British Colombia who found they couldn’t buy good quality climbing gear in Canada. Since its inception in 1971, it has grown to twenty stores across the country, with 4.5 million members and $366 million in annual sales. With this growth and the expectation of further growth, the co-op felt it needed a more experienced board to navigate not only its scope, but also the increasingly competitive market for the goods it sells. Continue reading →
We have recently added a “Recommended” section to our blog that contains links to material on co-operatives and credit unions that we believe will be of interest to readers. This menu item features a collection of curated content in three general subcategories: Reading, Viewing, and Listening. On each of these pages, you will discover links to books and articles, videos, blog posts, and podcasts. We have provided titles, authors and speakers where appropriate, and brief descriptions. Continue reading →
Much attention is focused this week on Motion M-100, which asks Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) to establish a national co-operative development strategy in Canada. The motion passed unanimously in the House of Commons on 5 April 2017, sending a clear message to the Government of Canada. Continue reading →
Co-operatives have an important role to play in the economy. Understanding this role is particularly important when markets are undergoing major changes — as in the case of privatization.
The privatization of liquor retailing stores in Saskatchewan provides an excellent example of the need to understand the role co-operatives play in creating well-functioning markets. In this post, we revisit the argument we made in a recent StarPhoenix/Leader-Post op-ed piece and suggest that, according to its privatization announcement, the Saskatchewan government fails to understand this role. Continue reading →
In a previous post, I outlined how a failure to find the right balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations can lead to a crowding-out effect in which the introduction of more extrinsic incentives results in poorer, rather than better, performance. With the right balance, however, extrinsic motivations can significantly enhance performance — the crowding-in effect.
Crowding-in and crowding-out effects can have a real impact on how decisions are made, on the effectiveness of policy, and on the performance of organizations, including co-operatives. Here are a couple of examples. Continue reading →
In a recent post on future options for the credit union system in Canada, Dionne Pohler and I argued that to be effective and meet the needs of a wide variety of stakeholders, the new system must rely on a mix of both extrinsic and intrinsic incentives. What are these two types of incentives? And why are they important?
Extrinsic motivations are monetary rewards or penalties such as pay-for-performance schemes and financial payments for not complying with rules and regulations. Extrinsic incentives work, it is believed, because people make decisions based on the financial costs and benefits of the options they face.
Intrinsic motivations, in contrast, can be observed in the desire to undertake activities simply because they are enjoyable or because they generate satisfaction — the wish to do a job well or to undertake a task because it leads to some greater good. The mission motivation that drives the behaviour of many people is a good example of an intrinsic incentive. Continue reading →
Like many countries, Canada is looking for green-energy alternatives in response to climate change. Germany presents an interesting case study that Canada could use. The “Energy Transformation” (Energiewende) in Germany has increased renewable energy to more than 30 percent of consumption to date and aims for 60 percent by 2050. The country has accomplished this thanks to innovative legislation coupled with the response of civil society and the business sector. A key mechanism was the creation of nearly nine hundred energy co-operatives in less than a decade.
Brett Fairbairn outlined the strategy in his lecture titled “Citizen Energy: Social Innovation, Public Policy, and the German Energy Transformation.” In partnership with Markus Hanisch from the Berlin Institute of Co-operative Studies, Brett examined the role of community-level social entrepreneurship and innovation in achieving green-energy targets. Continue reading →
Murray Fulton, director, Centre for the Study of Co-operatives
The Role of Co-operatives in the Economy
In a StarPhoenix/Leader Post op-ed piece published on 7 December 2016, Brett Fairbairn, Dionne Pohler, and I outlined why a mix of business types is required for a well-functioning market. As we said,
Achieving the correct balance of different types of business forms is critical.… Just as biological environments benefit from a rich mix of different organisms, so, too, do markets benefit from a diversity of business types. Consumer interests and a desire for local control can be met with co-operatives; niche markets can be served by entrepreneurs; and employment opportunities can be generated through employee ownership. Established chains have a role to play, given their brand identification and experience.
While we were commenting specifically on the privatization of liquor stores in Saskatchewan, the argument is a general one and applies to all markets in the economy. It is particularly relevant for co-operatives and credit unions. Continue reading →