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 November, the Centre hosted its annual MacPherson Talk. The 2018 lecture featured Nathan Schneider from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Professor Schneider’s work as a journalist, academic, and author has focused on platform co-operatives and their role in ownership and governance in the digital economy. This series of blog posts is inspired by his talk, entitled “An Internet of Ownership: Democratic Design for the Online Economy.”
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 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 →
Agricultural co-operatives have deep roots in Saskatchewan. Since the early part of the twentieth century, farmers have used the co-operative model to organize agricultural activities. The last two decades, however, have seen significant changes in agricultural co-ops, including the disappearance of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, once the largest agricultural co-op in Canada. While research has focused on the failure of the large co-ops, little attention has been directed to smaller agricultural co-ops and the environment in which they operate.
Recent research at the Centre for the Study of Co-operative shows that the number of agricultural co-ops in Saskatchewan has fallen from 307 in 2001 to 178 in 2015, a decline of 42 percent. Why has this occurred? Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
Co-operatives are community-based associations and enterprises accountable to their members and typically competing in markets for goods and services. Based on self-help, autonomy, and ages-old ways of working together, they improve the well-being of their members, foster values such as equity and inclusion, and strengthen communities.
Universities are among the oldest institutions in society, operating under deeply entrenched norms of self-governance and autonomy. They create knowledge for society, foster critical thinking and citizenship, and reproduce leadership and professions from generation to generation.
If a good partnership is one where the partners bring different strengths and characteristics to a common project, then universities and co-operatives have the makings of a great partnership. But partners have to find the right ways of working with each other, and this is more complicated than it might appear. Continue reading →