Top Co-op Issues 2019

Top Co-op Issues 2019

For the first time since the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives started surveying co-operatives four years ago about what they think are the main issues facing co-operatives, an increasing share of respondents told us they are concerned about co-operatives getting lost in the renewed interest around the social economy. 

Three social-economy related themes -- (a) general business economy/globalization/sharing economy; (b) differentiation/co-operative difference; and (c) maintaining the co-operative identity or mission -- occupied spots 4, 5, and 6 respectively in the list of the top co-op issues. The growing concern about co-ops getting subsumed by the social economy coincides with the federal government’s November 2018 announcement of a $750 million social finance fund and ongoing public interest (and use of) in “sharing economy” platforms like Uber.

At the same time, there was continuity around the top three co-op issues, which continue to be public awareness of the co-operative model (#1 for x years running), adapting governance to an evolving world (#3 in 2018), and helping people understand the relevance of the model to the current economic, social and political environment (#2 in 2018). 

The Centre launched the "Top Co-op issues" survey in 2016 to identify what industry leaders felt were their most pressing co-op-related concerns. As in years past, we sent the survey to 100 chief executive officers, board members and managers in virtually every region of the country representing almost every sector in which co-operatives operate. We received 30 responses to this year's survey, which consists of x open-ended questions that we then analyze and group into 20 distinct themes. The figure below summarizes the results of the 2019 survey. For a discussion of the top six issues from this survey, read our Co-op Issues 2019 blog post

Top Co-op Issues 2019

Year-over-Year Comparisons

The Centre’s survey does not lend itself easily to year-over-year comparisons given the open-ended nature of the survey and variations in response rates geographically, by function (CEO, manager, board, academic) and by sector. That said, the 2019 survey was reasonably balanced across sectors and by function. There was a slight under-representation from Quebec and Eastern Canada compared with previous years. With that in mind, Figure 3 compares the 2018 and 2019 survey responses.

 Top Co-op Issues

As noted earlier, there appears to be a growing concern about co-operatives being lost in the renewed interest around the social economy, with concerns around the sharing economy, differentiation, and maintaining the co-operative identity displacing member commitment/engagement, government relations and technology in the top 6 issues for 2019 relative to 2018. As Figure 3 shows, there was also less concern expressed in 2019 around co-operation among co-operatives, access to capital/financing, co-operative development and youth engagement.  



In our 2019 survey, respondents told us they were concerned with the need to identify, delineate and solidify the sector’s unique identity, especially given renewed policy attention to the social economy enterprises as distinct from co-operatives.  They also recognize challenges in their model, including the ability to nimbly respond to changing member needs, competition and a difficult economic environment. They also, however, see that the co-operative structure is a great strength, one that if used properly, uniquely equips them to adjust and respond to these challenges. Aspirationally, this means – in the words of one respondent – “helping people see that ‘everyone’ can create and use co-operatives as a first choice.”

You can find information about Top Co-op Issues for 2018 here, 2017 here, and for 2016 here.