Co-operatives and credit unions play a critical role in the economy and society, meeting needs and allowing for the expression of interests and values that are often not satisfied by other organizations. Understanding the role co-operatives play in the rapidly changing economy and society of the 21st century is important because it sheds light on how people in local communities and from around the world are using an organization that they own and control to change the world in which they live. To make sense of how co-operatives and credit unions develop and evolve, Contemplating Co-ops focuses on three themes:

  • co-operative governance
  • rural and agricultural communities
  • Indigenous co-operation


Co-operative Governance

Governance is about who has power and authority — who gets to decide what. This theme explores the way governance influences the success or failure of a co-operative by managing the interdependencies among stakeholders (co-operation and co-ordination among members, directors, managers, etc.), by establishing a shared way of thinking to deal with an uncertain future; and by maintaining legitimacy.

Topics covered: co-operative theory; demutualization (ownership changing from members to investors); leadership; management; community and social engagement; policy


Rural and Agricultural Communities

Credit unions and co-operatives have long played an important role in rural and agricultural communities. This theme explores the contemporary role of co-operatives as society looks for ways to maintain food security and environmental quality, and as rural areas struggle with the changes brought about by challenges such as depopulation, resource development, and the influx of people from different cultural backgrounds.

Topics covered: food security; food quality; environment; rural services; rural development


Indigenous Co-operation

The development and empowerment of Indigenous communities in Canada and elsewhere is one of the great societal challenges of our time. This theme explores the synergies and tensions between co-operative forms of enterprise and the social-economic-political realities of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. It also examines how Indigenous world views can broaden Western organizational models.

Topics covered: breadth and diversity of enterprises in Aboriginal communities; engagement partnerships with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities

18 thoughts on “Themes

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