Individual Faculty Research

Murray Fulton

Co-operative Innovation Project

Completed February 2016; see the final report here

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 western Canada and 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, conversations, and surveys in more than 500 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). 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)

  • Member engagement in large retail co-operatives
  • 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

  • "Arctic Co-operatives Limited: Exploring an Integrated Model of Co-operative Development," Lou is PI in this two-year research project in partnership with Arctic Co-operatives Ltd.

  • “One-Health Approach to Improving Food Security and Nutritional Status in the Context of Gender/Ethnic Inequities in Guatemala,” Lou is a collaborator in this project; the PI is Dr. Hassan Vatanparast from the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition

  • “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; find the final report 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.


Michael Gertler

  • Organization and economic, social, agricultural, and ecological contributions of grazing co-operatives in Saskatchewan

  • The trajectory of the organic sector on the Canadian Prairies: Social, economic, institutional, and agronomic factors


Isobel Findlay

  • "2018 Homelessness Partnering Strategy Point-in-Time Count," Saskatoon Housing Initiative Partnership on behalf of Employment and Social Development Canada; Isobel is co-principal investigator with Bill Holden

  • "MUSE: Multisectoral Urban Systems for Health and Equity in Canadian Cities," Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Environments and Health: Intersectoral Prevention Research Initiative; Isobel is a collaborator with Lise Gauvin, Marie-France Raynault, and Nazeem Muhajarine

  • “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

Dionne Pohler

  • Governance challenges in Canadian credit unions
  • Intersections among strategy, HR systems, unions, and employee involvement in both private and public sector organizations

  • The professionalization of HR in Canada

  • Compensation systems and inequality in organizations

  • Organizational compliance with labour and employment policy

  • The political economy of co-operative governance

  • Co-operative development in rural and Aboriginal communities in western Canada

Abdullah Mamun

  • “The Relationship between Size and Efficiency in Credit Unions”

  • “Evidence of Earnings Management in Credit Unions and the Rationale for Such Behaviour”

  • Bank risk management

  • Financial economics

  • Mergers and acquisitions among credit unions