Individual Faculty Research

Murray Fulton

Co-operative Innovation Project (completed February 2016)

Rural and Aboriginal communities are facing a host of challenges as a result of natural resource development, demographic shifts, and social developments. Historically, such periods have resulted in significant co-operative development. The goal of the CIP was to examine the potential for co-operative development in rural and Aboriginal communities across contemporary western Canada and, if this potential was deemed to be sufficiently strong, to identify a model that could be used to support co-operative development in these communities. In addition to the qualitative data that was collected during the two-year project through interviews and conversations in more than 30 communities across western Canada, the CIP compiled a broad range of quantitative socio-economic data on western Canadian communities. This data, along with the insights obtained from interviews with co-operative developers, formed the basis for a report on the potential for co-op development. Find more information on the CIP here. The Co-operative Innovation Project was funded by Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) and was overseen by a Project Management Group that consisted of Dionne Pohler, Ken Coates (Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy and International Centre for Northern Governance and Development), Dawn Brinkmeier (FCL), and Peter Couchman (Plunkett Foundation, UK). See the final report here. Investigators: Murray Fulton and Dionne Pohler

As a result of the success of the Co-operative Innovation Project, Federated Co-operatives Limited launched a new nonprofit organization — Co-operatives First — with a five-year mandate to carry on the work begun with the CIP.


The Political Economy of Co-operative Governance
Governance — with its focus on how the authority to make decisions is distributed and stakeholder consent is obtained — is intimately linked to the political economy of a co-operative (Spear 2004), namely the manner in which power is distributed throughout the organization and the impact that this distribution has on economic performance. The premise of the research in this project is that good governance requires getting the political economy correct, which in turn involves three key issues. The first issue concerns the management of strategic interdependencies/synergies. The second is related to how the co-operative leaders view and understand the world, while the third concerns the need to establish legitimacy. Without legitimacy, authority is ineffective — interdependencies are not properly exploited and information is not properly interpreted. The results of this conceptual framework can be applied to a variety of governance issues in co-operatives, including the strengths and weaknesses of federated systems.  Investigators: Murray Fulton, Dionne Pohler, and Brett Fairbairn


Executive Compensation
The compensation paid to CEOs and other business executives has recently attracted significant attention. In many cases this attention has taken the form of outrage over the size of the payments and calls for limits on CEO compensation. The purpose of this research is to examine how the demands for greater accountability and controls on compensation have played out for executives in the public sector and in co-operatives. Our analysis suggests that compensation depends critically on the culture and the political economy of the organization. Interestingly, this culture differs considerably across different parts of the public sector (e.g., DMs versus CEOs of crown corporations versus hospital CEOs), between co-operatives and investor-owned firms, and between the public sector and the private sector.  Investigators: Murray Fulton and Dionne Pohler

Other Areas
  • “Demutualization of Co-operatives and Mutuals,” report for Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada, Murray Fulton and Jean-Pierre Girard

  •  “Governance and Managerial Effort in Collectively-Owned Enterprises,” Murray Fulton and Dionne Pohler

  • “Governance of Co-operative Federations: Principles and a Framework for Research,” Brett Fairbairn, Murray Fulton, and Dionne Pohler

  •  Agricultural policy project funded by the US Department of Agriculture, in partnership with colleagues at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln

  • Regulation of the grain handling and transportation system

  • Murray is also working with a number of graduate students, who are looking at accountability (Travis Reynolds), executive compensation (Giovanni Bastidas), narratives in water policy (Hayley Carlson), and institutional change in museums and galleries (Jen Budney)


Brett Fairbairn

  • “Leadership, Innovation, and Cultural Change at Federated Co-operatives Limited and in the Co-operative Retailing System” (book manuscript)

  • Development of a program of research and scholarship on leadership and governance in higher education

  • Theory and case studies of governance and innovation in co-operatives

  • Social Innovation in Canada and Germany: Theoretical and Historical Perspectives
  • University Leadership: Development Paths and Networks
  • History of the co-operative movement in Germany — additional research to update to the present day, with a view eventually to producing a book


Lou Hammond Ketilson

  • “Examining Success Factors for Sustainable Rural Development through the Integrated Co-operative Model,” in partnership with the Canadian Co-operative Association and universities in Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda; Lou was project co-ordinator; Centre scholars JoAnn Jaffe and Cindy Hanson collaborated; this project finished in April 2016; final report to come here

  • “The Impacts of Credit Unions on Communities,” part of a national study titled “Measuring the Social, Environmental, and Economic Impact of Co-operatives in Canada”; initiated by the Canadian Co-operative Association; Lou worked with Centre Scholar Jessica Gordon Nembhard and board member Myrna Hewitt in partnership with Advantage and Affinity credit unions in Saskatchewan; their research results can be found here.

  • A second project under this umbrella: “The Impact of Co-operative Housing on Household Income, Skills, and Social Capital,” by former Centre postdoc Catherine Leviten-Reid and Karla Skoutajan of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada

  • “Co-operatives in Saskatchewan 2012: A Survey of Public Perceptions and Expectations in the International Year of Co-operatives”; Lou is working on this with Michael Gertler; writing of results is in progress

  • Canadian Co-operatives and Film Research Project; Centre partnership with George Melnyk, University of Calgary. See the final publication here.


Michael Gertler

  • "Social Engagement, Independence and Productivity among Older Adults: Participatory Research to Promote Aging in Place." This is a project to develop a pilot for a co-op operated by and for Saskatoon seniors who wish to continue living in their own homes. The project is supported by a $75,000 SSHRC Insight Development Grant and runs 2014–2016. Investigators: Donna Goodridge (PI); co-investigators M. Gertler, Paulette HunterElizabeth Quinlan, Doug Surtees, and Rosemary Venne

  • "Social, Economic, Agronomic, and Environmental Dimensions of Community Pastures and Grazing Co-operatives on the Canadian Prairies." This is Michael's primary sabbatical project for 2014–2015.

  • “Pursuing Excellence in Community Based Research: A National Partnership for Research and Action,” SSHRC Partnership Grant LOI submission; Michael is a collaborator.


Isobel Findlay

  • “Urban Aboriginal Service Delivery Landscape: Themes, Trends, Gaps, and Prospects,” SSHRC Partnership Grant, Isobel Findlay and Vince Bruni-Bossio, PIs

  • “Impacting Community Strength and Sustainability: Community-Campus Engagement at Station 20 West,” SSHRC Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement Hub Project, Isobel Findlay and Suresh Kalagnanam

  • “Pursuing Excellence in Collaborative Community-Campus Research,” SSHRC Connection grant, Isobel is a co-applicant

  • “Ameliorating Workplace Harassment among Caregivers: Fostering Communicative Action and Ethical Practice through Participatory Theatre,” CIHR Operating Grant, Isobel Findlay, Elizabeth Quinlan, and Beth Bilson

Eric Micheels

  • “Responses to CETA within the Canadian Beef Value Chain,” Eric is PI, Alliance for Food and Bioproducts Innovation (AFBI) Scholars Program

  • “Identification and Management of Risk in Production Agriculture in Saskatchewan,” Eric is PI, AFBI Scholars Program

  • “Development of Innovative Therapeutic Food Products for Treating Malnutrition and Responding to Emergencies in High Risk Communities,” Global Institute for Food Security project, Eric is a co-investigator